A trip to Exeter….

I headed up to meet the Exeter Educational Technology team on Monday on the 6:30 train out of Penmere.

After an exciting journey along the south coast and a slightly longer than it needed to be trip round the hill before I went up it I got to the Library.

On reading the email I’d got by way of invitation I realised I was in the wrong place and headed to the old library and up to the first floor.

Just a note on general first impressions. If you read my first Falmouth post then you’ll know I’ve been quite awe struck by the scale of the ‘University town’ campus there…. Exeter absolutely fucking dwarfs that…. if Falmouth is a cruise liner, Exeter is a Oil platform or one of those container ships that ‘bring Christmas’ from China…. Wow! I was given a ball park figure for 18k students plus god knows how many staff. Its literally like a city in a city (on a hill). Massive. Where Falmouth has some amenities and a fair amount of outdoor spaces Exeter has pretty much a shopping centre, god knows how many restaurants and bars and shops and a bloody bank on campus. Not just a cash machine. Bonkers.

Anyways…. back to the Ed Tech.

I’m liking the ‘open’ approach to the VLE I’ve found here. Students and staff all have ‘read only’ access to all the pages in the Exeter Learning Environment (ELE) which makes for a much better level of accessibility and the opportunity I would think to share good practice and encourage cross disciplinary interaction and collaboration… particularly given the STEM focus of the universities courses I think this is doubly good. Cross disciplinary work in Arts is certainly nice but generally it might mean you get a better quality of t shirt print or a more immersive cinematic experience when you go to the pictures…. in STEM subjects I feel there is more scope to dream of cures for cancer and solutions for climate change coming out of these interactions. I always think of the Alpine summer getaway Einstein and other glitterati of the sciences and arts attended where the walls were apparently written all over as the great minds of the early 20th century explored the mysteries of the universe together without the hinderance of their disciplines defining the output. Just to clarify students can’t use activities from courses they are not enrolled on and I imagine few have time to do much additional ‘browsing’ beyond their area of study but I still like it.

I also found the learning environments exciting. I took a couple of photos.

Touch table learning space Exeter

This first is a view from a control room over looking a touch table class room. The tables allow for collaborative working with option to share work to the screens arrayed around (which can also display the lecturers slides from the central lectern). I have it on the authority of a colleague from UAL that the actual touch interfaces are a bit flakey, but never the less this seems like an exciting space to work and collaborate in. My guide round the facility explained that as the technology has ‘settled in’ they’ve started to understand better what sorts of modules and classes work best in the environment and so better allocate their use. I think this is a sound approach… if you don’t make the tech available for experiment how can you hope that academics will engage and develop classes that benefit from the Learning tech provision.

Working lunch Pods Exeter

My second photo is shot in one of the seemly endless cafeteria / restaurant areas set in and around the forum. I really like the ‘working lunch’ approach to these spaces, screens, network connections and comfy seating…. and all fully of students lunching and busily working on lap tops. I think these sorts of working spaces are an external result of the more mobile approach we are all developing toward working. I’ve noticed a few at Falmouth to but without the sort of retro arcade styling….

Slightly ugly desktop Recycler

Last photo, a bit less cutting edge but a nod to a good green working environment, these desktop recyclers are a good idea albeit that it’d be nicer to have a lid and maybe a slightly less drab design but never the less you gotta give eco kudos where eco kudos is due 😛

So it wasn’t all sight seeing at Exeter and I’ve come back with quite a lot of home work in terms of new tools to investigate, including Turning Point response ware enabling staff to poll students and even create ‘choose your own adventure-esque ‘ powerpoint presentations and Question Mark delivering secure online testing.

One last thing of note – the train ride home was so awesome (even if I twisted my neck a bit) – there were a couple of times I thought the sea would wash the train away – I’d love to do that line in a real storm!

I’m looking forward to my next trip… next week I’m off to the Truro Medical College (The knowledge Suite) to see some new assessment software they’re trialling… should be interesting plus maybe I can get some free medical advice 😛

Keep it Ed Tech !

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