Nov 25

For three years I have been tutoring on the online degree at Anglia Ruskin University, affectionately referred to as ‘Ultraversity‘. It is a BA (Hons) Learning Technology Research and is done entirely online, using your work place setting as the basis of your study. In effect, you learn to undertake action research, focussing on your work and learning how to be better at what you do.

It’s a tough slog to get through, as all worth while degrees are. It’s innovative, and now being imitated by others… which can be considered the best kind of flattery I suppose.

The cohort of students who have just completed the three years are the first to go through en masse – there were six pioneers last year, but this year we had 140 and we completely dominated the graduation ceremony. The cathedral in Chelmsford was packed for our event, with many friends and family there to support the graduates. It was an emotional day.

One of the best parts for me was the speech by Revd. Simon Barrington-Ward, who made mention of UCANA – bless, no one had briefed him about the fact that David Tidmarsh closed down UCANA soon after arriving at Anglia Ruskin. What a shame, as it was UCANA who helped us validate the Ultraversity degree in the first place. Three years later and Tidmarsh seems hell bent on dismantling Ultralab as well… someone really ought to tell him to wake up and smell the coffee… it is Ultralab who are driving forward new research into such things, and it is the University who are falling back on old routines and traditions which may well entrench them firmly at the bottom of the league tables for learning, IMO.

Still, let’s not take anything away from the graduates – they have never met before today and there were a lot of people going around looking discretely at each others’ chests! With some food and drink as well, it turned into a very good humoured affair. Pity the university are not able to see what they have got, really!

So, what began as Professor Stephen Heppell’s idea came of age on Friday 24th November 2006. It will be interesting to see where the idea goes from here. One thing seems certain… at Anglia Ruskin it won’t flourish to the extent that it should, despite some very high quality people working hard to take it forward (good luck, team!). The leadership of the university don’t seem to value e-learning, which in 2006 is a fairly serious failing, I’d say!

Nevermind. 140 graduates after three brilliant years are now at a life changing point. I wish them all health and happiness and the very best of good fortune – they all deserve it.

Mar 24

Yesterday I had the great pleasure of meeting up with two people from the University of Glasgow so that we could discuss Moodle as a VLE. David Scotson and Howard Miller are both deeply involved in the development of Moodle and both work in the teaching and learning dept at Glasgow university – a department not entirely unlike Ultralab… in fact there are lots of similarities.

I often go to meet other people to talk about the work I am involved in, but seldom have I met with anyone so clearly ‘clued up’ about what it is that Ultralab actually does. I was delighted, therefore, when their pre-planned team meeting was put back because I was there with them, and that a person from Ultralab was obviously an important visitor. It was a humbling moment and quite unexpected – so often we don’t see the impact we are having on the outside world around us, and I am deeply grateful of the time David and Howard gave so willingly to me, and for giving me that moment.

If I can ever return the favour, I most certainly will. Thanks.

Mar 09

Yesterday, the Director of Ultralab, Richard Millwood, Matthew Eaves and I travelled over to White City to go to the BBC media centre. We were supporting BBC Blast at a showcase event run for the great and the good in the BBC. Director of the BBC, Mark Thompson attended the show and we were delighted to be able to give children (notably Chris and Mat) from King Harold school, Waltham Abbey, the chance to demonstrate their digital creativity skills by running an animation station.

Several good things happened at the event, but one superb piece of technology was Alexzander Blanc’s SMS Stickies tool. This application allows people to send a text message via mobile phone to a central number and have it displayed on a web page. The underlying database this uses is the same as that developed for Tim Ellis’sUltraSMS‘ application. Both Tim and Alex are part of the Ultralab team and are busy developing applications for us to make learning more delightful.

Matthew managed to get a few spare moments to photograph the event using his mobile phone – but don’t expect superb clarity of image here!

Two clear messages from the BBC, one from Mark Thompson himself, were that BBC Blast is probably the most important thing that the BBC are doing at the moment and that BBC Blast will be running a roadshow in the summer to get young people involved in creative events. This will involve a converted truck touring the country and stopping off in city centres all over the UK. We hope to be supporting that roadshow in some form.

Oct 04

Who’d have thought it… after Matt had spent so long writing the application, we were shortlisted for this award for our work with the Ultraversity degree course, a new take on learning and technology.

The funny thing is that I am the one who will be going along to it – black tie and all!

Read more about it on Matt’s blog.

I’ll let you know how it goes after Thursday… it’s being held at the Grosvenor House Hotel in Park Lane, London. Let’s hope they have some decent parking facilities…What are the chances of that?

Jul 18

Earlier today, two colleagues, Jonathan and Matt, were invited onto BBC Essex radio to take part in the ‘sound advice’ phone in where callers get help troubleshooting computer problems.

I stayed ‘back at the ranch’ to record the entire event and you can find more info about it on Jonathan’s blog: