Tuesday, 30 June 2015

Sheffield Hallam University Learning and Teaching conference 2015

On the 25th June myself and CLT placement student Kate Hoban took the train to Sheffield, we were invited to attend the Sheffield Hallam learning and teaching conference. The theme of the conference was 'Student engagement in and out of the classroom'. A copy of  the conference programme can be found here

After our own recent learning and teaching conference I was eager to see how another institution took on the challenge. The build up had been good with lots of activity on Twitter a glimpse of how much social media activity there was going to be during the day.

We arrived, grabbed coffee and our conference pack from the registration desk before heading into a large lecture theatre for the welcome and first keynote.

We both noticed how full the lecture theatre was, from a pre-conference tweet they were expecting 414 delegates to the one day conference. We also spotted an artist at the front of the theatre who was capturing the thoughts from the session on paper, a different way to summarise and visualise the ideas being discussed.

 The first keynote was given by Prof. Simon Lancaster from UEA, he talked about making lectures more interactive including the use of e-voting. We used the app ResponseWare from Turning technologies in the keynote to answer questions. He also demonstrated how it could be used for peer learning, by asking students to justify answers to peers sat next to them. An interesting and interactive keynote that set the tone for the day. It also became clear from the keynote that social media and especially Twitter play an important role at Sheffield Hallam with lots of staff tweeting and the event even trending at one point.

We left the keynote and headed to our first sessions of the day, the morning sessions were mainly about staff showing and talking about activities they had undertaken. We heard about surveys into the expected use of mobile technologies by staff from new 1st year students. The use of twitter to engage students after class and provide a twitter chat. We split up for the second session and I listened to 2 talks about supporting students in extra-curricula activities to support their studies, this included language modules and a trip to a leading London law firm.

Lunch was held in the large atrium and one of the things that wasn't available was the range of stalls and services to visit during the break. We took our lunch outside to enjoy the best of the weather.

The afternoon started with a Keynote from Professor Liz Barnes the Deputy Vice-Chancellor . The keynote was aimed more at internal staff and the afternoon sessions reflected this. Each session in the afternoon had to bring a single word back to the closing event, the word had to reflect 'What approaches do you use to ensure that you engage students beyond the classroom and contextualise their learning experience'.   The session we attended in the afternoon was led by the key words that supported their Inspirational teaching awards.  Each table got a word to think about how what it means in the context of inspirational teaching,  the word we had was credibility. These sessions were more interactive and set up as workshops. It was sometimes difficult to contribute as most people were discussing SHU specific initiatives and activities.

Overall the event was a good and engaging experience. It is always interesting to see how another institution puts on a learning and teaching conference and what kind of talks they include. With a bigger pool of academic staff to call on there was a wide range of internal speakers. Social media played a big part in the day and that impressed me. The follow up is that all delegates and presenters can have an open badge.  I think Sheffield Hallam should be pleased and proud of the event they put on.