In this blog, Rosemarie McIlwhan, Assistant Professor in the Learning and Teaching Academy, reflects on the challenges and successes of the Supporting Student Learning Online team in supporting staff and students across the University to respond to the pandemic.
When we first started supporting colleagues teaching in China to move their learning online, little did we know that soon the whole University would have to follow. Nor could we have forecast that much of the 5-year plan for active learning and digital education would end up being implemented in a little over 5 months. There have been many challenges since the pandemic caused us to move to blended learning, but we have each risen to the occasion.
The Supporting Student Learning Online (SSLO) team was one way in which we rose to the challenge. It was led by the Heriot-Watt Learning and Teaching Academy, drawing Learning Technologists from across the University, staff from the VLE project, Learning and Teaching Enhancement Services and media services together into one team providing global support for staff and students. In the video below members of the SSLO team explain the project, and colleagues from across the University explain the impact of the work.
The calm delivery in the video belies the frantic nature of the first few weeks, where we could foresee campuses being closed and the team went all-out to produce support resources before that happened so that staff would have hard copies to take home, and to rapidly provide the training and support that would be needed to enable staff and students to continue to stay in touch and finish the semester. That pace has hardly changed as we have moved into Responsive Blended Learning for AY20/21 and beyond, yet the team have continued to successfully support staff and students through live sessions, 1:1 support and provision of resources. What is less visible is the support that isn’t about learning technology – the taking time just to listen, to hear people’s frustrations (whether with the pandemic or the technology), to try to understand others’ fears even where you can’t do anything to help, essentially the humanity with which the SSLO team have provided support across the University.
Recognising the work of the SSLO team
In recognition of their work, the SSLO team have been put forward for the ALT ‘Learning Technologist of the Year’ Awardsin the category Team of the Year. The awards are presented annually by the Association for Learning Technology (the UK’s leading professional body for Learning Technology). The Awards celebrate and reward excellent practice and outstanding achievement in Learning Technology. They have established a benchmark for outstanding achievement in Learning Technology on a national scale.
The awards are based on a competitive application process decided by a panel of expert judges, drawn from different sectors and countries, bringing together a wealth of experience in Learning Technology. The judging panel reviews all entries and the highest scoring entries in each category are short-listed. Judging criteria:
- Excellence in the work (as defined in the CMALT principles).
- Strong evidence that your work has made a significant impact on practices within the your or your team’s organisation, community, or sphere of influence.
- Clear explanation of how others may learn from your work and what have you done to enable others to do so.
SSLO team shortlisted for Learning Technologist of the Year
We are delighted to report that the team have been shortlisted for the Learning Technologist Team of the Year Award.
You can find out more about the awards, alongside descriptions of the other shortlisted entries on the ALT awards showcase website.
The awards will be formally announced and presented at the ALT winter conference on 16th December at 4.30pm GMT. Good luck to everyone who has been shortlisted – there are some fabulous projects, and this year when learning technology has really come to the fore, every single person working in this area deserves recognition whether they’ve been nominated or not.
Still…..keep your fingers crossed for us!
Update 16th December:
We are delighted to announced that the SSLO team won the Learning Technologist of the Year (Team) award 2020. Congratulations to everyone in the SSLO team – it is a wonderful achievement to have your work recognised in this way.
The LTA would also like to congratulate all those shortlisted both in the team and individual categories – the excellence on show at the awards was inspiring. Full details of the award winners and those shortlisted is available in the ALT announcement of the Awards Winners.
- SSLO Toolkit – a host of resources on supporting student learning online
- RBL hub – resources on teaching in Responsive Blended Learning mode
- RBL student support – resources for students on studying in Responsive Blended Learning mode
- ALT membership – Associate membership of the Association for Learning Technology is available to all Heriot-Watt staff. If you have an interest in learning technology it is well worth joining. Apply for Associate Membership of ALT via their website.
- ALT winter conference – places are still available, register for the ALT winter conference now.