By: Kirk Davies, EDC Educational Technology Development Coordinator

From June 3-5, Algonquin College hosted the Advancing Learning 2015 Spotlight on Innovation conference. This conference aims to share the experiences of educators across the province in the areas of educational technology, the Internet and engagement.

The first keynote speaker, Dr Jeff Borden, gave an entertaining talk on the state of higher education today and provided some examples of how to create a more connected classroom, highlighting the transition to more interactive learning in the future. In this wide-ranging talk, he touched on many of the relevant topics that are preoccupying educators today. One particular area he discussed was a software called MeTL, which allows live classes to create interactive documents where the whole group can share notes and have a discussion during a lecture. This is helpful if students aren’t clear on a topic or would like to keep up with their instructors’  notes and their own at the same time.

The other keynote address was presented by Nora Young, host of CBC Radio’s Spark. She discussed the rise of big data and what value educators can bring now that students have so much access to information, primarily critical thinking skills. And with that, digital citizenship and literacy that will allow students to understand the ethics and value this access to information brings. If educators can provide a broader understanding of what these metrics mean, students will be better equipped to deal with the world surrounding them.

The session presented by John Dallas and Karen Spiers was an informative discussion on the project management tools and practices used in developing a fully online program that will be jointly launched by two different colleges. Having been through similar projects, it was interesting to see how this group managed the difficulties faced by a large group in disparate locations. They used a project management tool called Basecamp, which is similar to cuCollab that is used here at Carleton. This software was primarily used by the key stakeholders in the projects to track content and timelines. One advantage is that files can be uploaded simply by emailing them to a specific address, no need to login! However, a disadvantage is that there is no file version tracking without going back through the history of uploads. For testing and tracking corrections, the testers used Google Forms. The project owners noted and tracked the changes and could then make the necessary adjustments. This is a very clean and efficient way to make sure all changes are implemented, as one person is responsible for each part.

The rest of the event was filled with many presentations by instructors from across the province who were sharing their innovative and interesting approaches to using technology to enhance their courses. From discussions on livestreaming lectures to panel discussions on digital badges, there is certainly a great deal of innovation happening in this sector.