I am writing on behalf of the Association for Learning Development in Higher Education (ALDinHE). The Association brings together colleagues from more than sixty universities, in the UK and overseas, with a shared commitment to, and interest in learning development. This field of practice takes a particular approach to higher education: it views students as partners in learning, research and scholarship, and encourages staff and students to focus on key aspects of academic practice, demystifying them and making them more explicit. This strategy has been seen to be successful for effective learning, and in building students’ confidence in participating in their discipline and professional communities.
We would like to invite your participation in the development of a series of student conference events entitled Learning Live, the first of which will take place in 2011/12. The focus will be on providing a live forum for student experiences of HE, using the format of conferences for and by undergraduate students, which will take place simultaneously in participating universities, and will be linked online.
Students will be invited to submit written papers, posters, webcasts, pre-recorded material or other objects for presentation. ALDinHE will offer certificates to all student contributors whose work is accepted for inclusion, and will award prizes for especially innovative, scholarly or otherwise outstanding presentations. A multi-media record of the whole event will be composed and could provide a number of 'products' for both students and academic participants to use for their own purposes: an online journal, podcasts, film and other media. Our intention is that involvement in Learning Live will encourage the development of skills for learning, research and presentation, contribute to educational and employment-related goals and provide material for students to use in their personal development planning.
In preparation for the first event, ALDinHE wishes to encourage academics in as many disciplines as possible to become involved. A key reason for the long lead-in period is to enable course teams to take the opportunity to integrate Learning Live into their academic programmes and to consider ways in which students’ participation can count towards their coursework assessment. This approach emphasises the role of students as partners in learning and research, and helps embed the development of key skills in relevant contexts. By encouraging networking in subject-related groups across different institutions, Learning Live events will also reinforce students’ understanding of the value of participation in communities of practice associated with academic disciplines and professions.
The key criterion for participation is the focus on students' experiences of learning. All contributions would in some way need to reflect on how learning had happened – or perhaps how it might have been improved - in the specific context of the participants’ course, such as a particular assignment, placement experience or practical activity. All Learning Live strands or themes will therefore need to make some link to learning activities: e.g. students’ investigation of their own learning, whether in terms of spaces and technologies, social activities, metacognitive awareness, online or other communication networks, notemaking or reading practices, writing practices etc.
We are still at an early stage of the development of this proposal. We would like to hear from anyone who is interested in being involved, although our priority at present is to set up a network of lecturers and subject specialists who are keen to pursue the idea by developing ways that participation in Learning Live by their students can be awarded credit as part of taught programmes. We would be grateful if you would pass this message on to those who may be interested, and we look forward to hearing from you.
With best wishes
Chair of the Association for Learning Development in Higher Education
University of Plymouth