Poacher turned gamekeeper


I think that this is my third JISC Enhancing e-Learning conference. During the first one I was definitely a lurker. By the second, I’d been involved in a MOOC (Plenk) and a couple of the streamed ALT-C events so I was more comfortable with the asynchronous forums and Elluminate and contributed more. (Though I haven’t had the nerve to press F2 yet.) In all cases, I was attending as an academic looking for ideas that I could use in my own practice: and there’s been a rich seam of good ideas to mine.

This year, I’m attending in a new capacity as chair of our e-Learning Committee (a body with no real power but a brief to explore Technology Enhanced and Distance Learning and advise the University Learning and Teaching Committee on matters of strategy). Not only do I have to try to fill the shoes of my formidable predecessor Dr David Gill, I suddenly find that all those HEA and JISC reports and briefings that I was dimly aware of before have suddenly become much more relevant and I have a need to become familiar with the literature and the e-learning community in short order.

Threatening clouds If I may mix my metaphors, with the dark clouds of uncertainty of the new funding regime looming, my institution, like most of the others in the UK I expect, is suddenly aware that student experience is part of the HE garden that has been been allowed go wild. The research garden is blooming nicely, but there is Japanese knot weed in the vegetable patch and if the carrots go rotten, we might starve.

So it is with a different sensibility that I have engaged so far in the Pre-Conference Activities (excellent as they have been) and I’m looking forward to the conference proper. I am also here knowing that I’m entering a new role where I am an amateur amongst a community of professionals. It’ll be an interesting ride.

As is often the case, the immortal bards from Liverpool express my sentiments precisely

Help me if you can, I’m feeling down
And I do appreciate you being round.
Help me, get my feet back on the ground,
Won’t you please, please help me?

— John Lennon and Paul McCartney, “Help!” © 1965