Last week I attended one day of Bett 2013, an event looking at technology for education and lifelong learning. The event comprised of 3 ‘summits’: School Leaders, Technology in Higher Education and Learning At Work; a very large exhibition and several arenas hosting training sessions. It was one of the biggest events I’ve been to in a while, most others seem to have downsized while Bett is expanding – this year it moved into the Excel London. The immenseness of the event did seem to be at times one of its downfalls as Bett attempted to be all things to all people…
I was actually there to present on Improving access to research data: what does changing legislation mean for you? as part of the Technology in Higher Education Summit. My slides are available from Slideshare and there should be a video online at some point. I spent most of my time at Bett attending sessions in the HE summit. The key themes I picked up on were internationalisation, personalization and managing expectations (what do students expect from an institution when they become a student there? A free iphone, a free ipad, or a just to get a job when they finish?).
On the whole the summit struck me as badly put together: talks were rarely grouped around themes, sessions seemed a little behind the times (apparently students access university web sites using their mobiles..), talks were too short and many big technology trends seemed to be mentioned only briefly (relatively little on data experiments, data mining, linked data, gaming, OER, mobile.) It was a real mish mash. I think they would have been better off having less general talks but concentrating on 3 or 4 key themes instead. There would have then been an opportunity to introduce the theme, then offer case studies from the HE world. For example was a panel session on a business case for MOOCs which failed to explain what MOOCs are and offered very little insight on how they will impact HE – a real wasted opportunity. The best session of the day for me was a panel on ‘£9k fees and the National Student Survey: Raised student expectations and how to manage them’ – some interesting discussions on what expectations actually are from an HE and student perspective.
I was actually approached to talk at the event and was given a title, in retrospect I think a different talk – maybe one on introducing the value of data – would have been better received. All the sessions prior to mine had concentrated on learning and teaching, in fact I hadn’t even heard the words ‘research’ or ‘data’ mentioned until in passing in the cloud computing talk before mine. There was a lack of clarity on who delegates would be (apparently IT managers but the UCISA people I sat with knew very few people). I gather it is Bett’s first attempt at having an HE strand, so it’s early days. I recommend they get a few more people in the know on the programme committee and then decide on a focus. Covering ‘technology in Higher Education’ is a big ask!
Anyway, the exhibition was interesting despite a heavy learning towards school teaching. Lots of virtual learning environments, interactive products, use of video and e-learning products. I even got to see Johnny Ball talk, which made it all worthwhile!