Wednesday, 11 March 2009

UCISA day one - lets play games more

First day of UCISA conference almost over - just the poster session and drinks/dinner to go! I'm very impressed with the location - just next to the Albert Docks in Liverpool - some excellent regeneration has gone on here.

Excellent start - began with Professor Steve Kenny, PVC of Liverpool John Moores University welcoming us to this city, and giving us some good pointers as to how ICT can help with some of the challenges Universities are facing. These include changes in the student demographic, the changing expectations of students, and funding. His message was that we should be investing in technology now to meet the challenges we’re going to meet in the future. I can't argue with that!

The first keynote talk was from Bill Graves of Sungard on The Learning Cloud. He opened by suggesting how to explain what the cloud actually is - Do you use google? Do you know where the servers are? Does it matter? He talked a lot about evolving learners and how to improve our performance and productivity by considering innovative and radical solutions, including outsourcing services. His take on education - "We're preparing students for jobs that don’t exist to use technology not yet invented to solve problems we haven’t yet imagined".

The final session I went to was actually the best. The University of Glamorgan won the UCISA award for excellence last year for GlamStart - an interactive game aimed at new students to enhance their induction to University. The presentation by Martin Lynch, Head of the Multimedia Team, (with a Fine Art background), gave an excellent introduction to the background of the project, the development, and its evaluation. The first 3 weeks of a student's time at University is critical - and a significant proprtion will drop out during thqt period. Also students are coming to University unprepared for some aspects of university life including time management, workload managment and study skills.

Glamorgan have developed a simulation game - students receive a personalised introduction form the dean of their Faculty, have an interactive map of the campus that they can explre, and play a game where they have to get trhough a number of days carrying out tasks (going to lectures for example) and balancing time, financil and academic resources. There is a scorebaord where that can compare scores, and resources that can be unlocked as the game is played. It has proved popular with the stsudents, and receives positive scores in all evaluations. I loved it, and it showed what a group of professionals from different backgrounds can acheive when they come together to solve a problem. There are a lot of game designers out there - perhaps we should be making more use of them to design interactive techology with interfaces that our students are used to using.

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