Wednesday, January 20, 2021

#OERxDomains #OER21 Two messages for Two Audiences

Please Read on - for those who know about Open education this is the place to be and get your proposals in !

Online Conference – 21-22 April 2021 #OERxDomains #OER21

Organised by the Association for Learning Technology and in partnership with Reclaim Hosting’s Domains Conference, this special edition of the much loved event is the 12th annual conference for Open Education research, practice and policy.

The Call for Proposals is now open https://oer21.oerconf.org/call-for-proposals/ 

ALT Organisational Logo


For those who don't really understand what this is all about.

Forty years ago I left a school which gave me a good but narrow education - but one of the best around at the time. I've not stopped learning. I've been a school teacher , a hack , a community education tutor and College lecturer and held my share of senior posts. I am still a Glaswegian with an incurable social justice complex. I do believe that education can make the world a better place. Too often in my teaching career, the book I chose for the class or the resources available for learning were determined by the finances that the institution had. The learners got great learning - but through the narrow letter box view of the resources that we had available for them.

I don't get get that Scotland has not understood yet what open education practice and policies could do for learners and teachers.

We are currently in the midst of this terrible pandemic and we still haven't figured out that we don't compete on how well we re-package knowledge. Education staff around the world are tying themselves in knots trying to improve their notes , power points , instructional videos, that is not a bad thing. But it would be much more effective for learners and learning if that was a much more collaborative activity. It is more than having a set of course materials that are shared around and within your subject team. (though I do know that in many institutions that remains a triumph in itself). While putting a set of learning materials on to your institutional virtual learning environment may be your act of sharing ,you could be a bit more ambitious for learners everywhere. I don't believe learning materials replace a good teacher - but sharing helps teachers and learners. 

It is not a dark secret the answer is making and sharing your learning materials with an appropriate open educational licence. If you , your institutional leadership team , local authority education team , national education policy makers haven't spotted that this is actually practice encouraged globally by UNESCO , mandated for public education  I am not sure where you have been since 2012. 

In Scotland a good place to start might be considering The Open Scotland Declaration. and why not come along and meet a well informed set of  international set of speakers. 

Sign up and come along to the Online Conference – 21-22 April 2021 #OERxDomains #OER21 

Full disclosure I am co-chair of  the ALT Scottish Sig and a Co-Chair of this conference - but none of this is fake news ;-) 





Thursday, December 31, 2020

2020 Vision and a Happy New Year !


What a year of loss and struggle for so many people. The impact on the economy and on people’s lives won’t really be clear until the end of next year. I know how fortunate we have been in the roles we are in, in that we enjoy a degree of job security and we have been able to help others.

Professionally it’s been great to see staff and learners rising to the challenge of new ways of learning. I work with a great team who have been working flat out.

It’s been great too to see how our two school age children have adapted to online learning and monthly changes in the schooling system - they both miss sport most of all and socialising out of school, but generally their enthusiasm for learning has not suffered. Blended learning really does work.

Personally, it’s been very long hours and dealing too with navigating family illness and the stresses and strains of the new enforced domestic arrangements. We’re so lucky to have a garden and a dog and this space and companionship have kept us all sane. The scottish weather was kind too when we made our great summer escape to Lewis and that made all the difference to recharging our batteries.

Along the way I lost a couple of good pals,  in normal circumstances I’d have been present at the celebration of their lives. Watching remembrance services remotely , Zoom meetings and WhatsApp groups just don’t cut it.

I sometimes make predictions for the year ahead - I don’t think I could ever have predicted a year like this.

I hope things get back to a new normal where online learning is embedded in how everyone learns. I hope too we see a new system of national assessment in Scottish schools. We need some better national leadership around this. There is a lot of good learning that could come out of this pandemic. I am ever hopeful. 

As the economy changes - I expect to be busier than ever , we have ambitious plans for the year ahead and the demand for digital learning and associated skills are not going to diminish.  My inbox is perpetually full with requests for support. 

May the New Year bring you and yours good health, happiness, prosperity and a timely dose of Covid Vaccine.

Tuesday, December 29, 2020

Beyond Multiple Choice #BMC2020

Logo Beyond Multiple Choice

I am doing a bit of tidying up and catching up on some posts that should have appeared earlier in the year.  What a strange yet busy time it has been.  In early November I was asked to contribute to this global conference on assessment. You can find my modest contribution from a College perspective in day three of the proceedings. 

Beyond Multiple Choice #BMC2020   ( worth clicking on timestamp below videos to see running schedule) 

It was a really interesting conference given the world's reaction to CoVid - suddenly on-line testing came into its own - in ways that may surprise you - if you watch one session have a look at final session of the day about how the national testing system in Scotland is operating and the political pressures around this.  It's all about putting the learner at the centre. 

My slides below - if you have an interest in following this global community you can join the linkedIn Group. 

Wednesday, August 12, 2020

An Experienced Reflection on National Awarding


I worked for the SQA for most of the current century - and every year congratulations are due to all learners and this year, in that respect, it is no different. 

I'm glad I am on a beach in the Outer Hebrides this week.  Working for the SQA is a thankless task and colleagues will be working hard as ever to deliver. 

We need to step back from the hysteria.

These are exceptional times. This is the first time since the 1880's that the national exam diet has been cancelled. This has put a strain on everyone; learners , teachers , administrators and politicians. In times like this tough decisions need to be made and justified.  A decision was made today to uphold the estimates made by teachers. 

This I think exposes some deep fault lines in our system. Teachers have systematically over estimated pupils eventual results for years. The external exams being the method of arbitration. Without the exam this issue is thrown into sharp focus. 

I think the appeals system that was ready to go into operation would have supported the deserving cases. But we will never know. The noise about education being a postcode lottery isn’t just noise - but the appeals system would have adjusted these. 

What is the issue .

Many teachers are not particularly good at designing prelims , and or are unsure about standards. The evidence is pretty well known to those who have worked  in and around the system.  There is often a big gap between learners actual grades and those predicted by their teachers.  Appeals are often made based on invalid evidence, commonly cobbled together prelims based on items from past papers - when this was admissible evidence.  

The system has not done enough over a lot of years to make sure that teachers can make better estimates. Perhaps given the parental and institutional pressure that teachers are under, along with different learner performance between prelim and final - it is too hard a task. SQA has done its bit around Understanding Standards.

SQA has data on the reliability of estimates at school level and I am certain that SQA's initial response was based on sound evidence. In this, and ultimately the change of tack, they follow the instructions from the government.  SQA staff and the 15,000 appointees  ( who are mainly serving teachers ) do their utmost to make the system fair for all. 

Some observations - 

A decision has been made that will be very popular with learners and teachers , it looks as though it has almost cross party support. The government was never going to have an easy decision on this. 

Should the system now accept that teachers make these national assessment decisions ? ( I think  the view is that this is perhaps a one off ( I'd like to see more robust decision making moved here )  . No one, least of all the learners were prepared for what has been an incredible year, an upward drift of 14% across the board, does create a credibility problem , but who knows perhaps lots of learning was happening in lock down and schools and local authorities had to put in long hours creating their orders of merit.  Neatly too it creates a cohort of learners for Higher Education when overseas numbers are down.  Perhaps it just highlights that exams  are not really about quality control just quantity management for the tertiary sector.  It probably mirrors what is happening in the Higher Education sector - where grade inflation is much more of a reality - and when the  dust settles it will have ballooned this year. Please press, don't roll out the usual elite moaners and fixers from Higher Education about the school and college system - they have zero credibility on standards. 

What is clear and to restore learners faith in the system is that learners need a better means of evaluating their performance against national standards. The wide variances between school estimates and the original awards need tackled. It is an opportunity to revisit the whole exam system - roll on ,  roll off digital assessment for all is within reach along with digital portfolios of evidence.  Local Authorities , Education Scotland and the GTCS should take a much closer interest in teacher decision making. It is only recently that the GTCS started recognising teacher engagement in national assessment work as a critical part of CPD and often it is the schools with fewer SQA appointees that have the most divergent estimates.  Perhaps a starting point could be a comparison of previous years performance based on exams and this year's based on estimates. What was this year’s secret sauce ? 

The credibility of the national assessment system, whatever its future shape, is everyone's responsibility and it is ill served by political slagging matches and press hysteria.  I think we are still  not in a place where we can say the academic year ahead is without more uncertainties. 

In the meantime , I wonder how the more market driven education system of England will cope with a similar crisis, A stars all round I wouldn't wonder.

Monday, August 03, 2020

Active Summer with Fresh Challenges Ahead.

How do you measure what has been a challenging time for all ? 

It's not been the end of the world ( translation of my French surf shirt ).  My lock down beard 
(recorded in zoom and teams meetings)  has now gone and we are getting ready for the new session. Here are some links that reflect our work over the summer and our preparations for the new session. It is not the end , nor the beginning of the end of blended learning , it is just the start of a very different and much more learner centred form of education. 


We are ready with a new online standard for all,  and much more summarised on the LTA Blog Site . This is a summary of some great work across the Learning and Teaching Academy team , it has been a real team effort.  

I wrote a paper in April/May about the landscape we are all in,  and I've been fortunate to get pieces in the May Edition of Teaching Scotland.  I've linked my  CoVid posts for posterity

What is certain is that we are planning well - what is less certain are the challenges that lie ahead. 




Thursday, June 11, 2020

Sign Up for Scottish Association of Learning Technology SIG Event with a difference 22nd of June


Learning technologist in a University , College , local authority schools or other learning environment ? 

Could you please take a few moments to upload a video of yourself talking about what has helped you with the transition to remote learning and teaching, either from an individual or institutional perspective?

Don't be shy - we want to hear your voice ! 
If you are really shy - wear a disguise ;-) 
Is that asking for trouble ;-) 

And look forward to seeing you in person at the ALT Scotland SIG 
Please also remember to register for the event:

If you are reading this message - could promote the event within your institutions too that would be great!

Very best wishes,


ALT Scotland Special Interest Group Co-Chairs
Joe and Vicki



Dr Vicki H.M. Dale,   University of Glasgow
Joe Wilson MA, MBA , DipEd , PGCSE City of Glasgow College


Monday, June 01, 2020

Busy , Busy , Busy



I started trying to record what the new Learning and Teaching Academy has been up to on a weekly basis . I can't really believe this is week 10 of the lock down . 

I'm just about to push around a newsletter that is testament to all the hard work put in by teams and staff across the College.  June will be just as busy with virtual events across the College and nationally .  Hoping to finalise details of an ALT Scotland Special Interest Group meeting for end of this month - this week. 


( with thanks to Tom Duff) 

Here is a wee list of what we have achieved in 10 weeks.

  1. On day college closed we had advice in place for teaching , support and students on working remotely.
  2. We moved all support on line - our inbox every day has now dealt with around 1500 support requests ( at 27/5)
  3. We immediately rolled out Zoom as a practical delivery tool for teachers and provided associated support.
  4. We’ve run 2 webinars a day covering critical systems and support – with more than 950 staff attending sessions . Through online booking platform and we've had great feedback.
  5. Our offer has tracked staff demand – initially focusing on communication tools , now focusing on assessment and evidence gathering tools and we will focus on learning design to make courses more digital and blended for start of next session. ( we are using our own version of ABC Learning Design. 
  6. We have continued both to support a number of commercial projects like https://www.offsiteready.com/  and have won more commercial funding during lock down – and we are still bidding for new business. ( we are just about to roll out a UFI Project - watch this space) 
  7. We documented our approach and it has been picked up as good practice and will feature in a future GTCS Magazine.
  8. From 17 March we have offered a digital first library service with advice, support, guidance and access to resources for students and staff.
  9. We have designed, developed and launched the Learning and Teaching Academy online presence. Re-branded existing pages and building whole new libguide platform and creating a wordpress site and created a suite of short instructional videos and guides for staff working remotely.
  10. Our team has offered an online landscape to enable and support teaching teams to deliver online. With daily learning opportunities such as webinars to online learning courses that encourage and exploit digital technologies such as Teams, Zooms and many educational technologies and software.
  11. The LTA has successfully created a team ethic that is centred on supporting academic development and enhancing teaching and learning within City and beyond.
  12. We just managed to squeeze out a Jisc Digital Insights Student survey - which I know will give us some valuable data on how learners are coping in lockdown.
  13. We are now well positioned to start the real work of transforming delivery at City of Glasgow College in a new working landscape.
In amongst this I've  continued to support the College Scotland's #DigitalAmbition work now morphing into a more directed bit of work to deal with the immediate crisis . I've to completing data gathering for feedback to be in this week. 

Also managed to present  on a CDN/Jisc Virtual Bridge Sessions along with some of my colleagues. 

whew !