• ALTC21: Shared experience, different perspectives

    by Sarah Copeland


ALTC21: Shared experience, different perspectives

~ Higher Education ~

SEPTEMBER 22nd 2021· by Sarah Copeland


ALT Annual Conference 2021

The start of the new academic year in the UK is heralded by the ALT Conference, where people who care about the role of technology in learning can come together to share practice and ideas. Given the academic year we’ve just had, the conference theme of ‘Shared experience, different perspectives’ perfectly summarises the journey that we have endured as a wider community of practice. This timely event brought together participants from 24 countries for an online gathering and was abundant with stories from the field. As well as many rich reflections of overcoming learning barriers in a pandemic, another theme that’s been surfacing in recent times was given some high-profile space, and that’s racism embedded in technology. Other important themes in our field were also represented, such as accessibility and inclusive practice. 

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PebblePad representation at ALTC

Almost every ALT Conference includes some form of PebblePad representation, as was the case this year. I was delighted to be involved in a couple of sessions connected to innovative PebblePad implementation, including a presentation outlining the enterprise-wide implementation at the University of Leeds in the UK. Working with the ePortfolio Academic Lead, Dr Ruth Payne, has been not only a delight, but a fantastic opportunity to see their University-wide digital strategy in action. Ruth and I presented Using ePortfolio to support student belonging and wellbeing in the post-Covid HEI context, where Ruth explains in detail how the university's strategy has helped meet the rapidly evolving needs thrown up by the pandemic, alongside their planned implementation for Academic Personal Tutoring.

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Given the academic year we’ve just had, the conference theme of ‘Shared experience, different perspectives’ perfectly summarises the journey that we have endured as a wider community of practice.


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Looking beyond institution-wide implementations to cross-institution ambitions, we were delighted to share another innovative project at ALTC; eMORA: A collaborative online assessment project in midwifery education. Debbie Holmes (fellow Learning Consultant and former midwife), Kellie Shore (Support Superstar) and I have been engaged with a group of universities concerned with midwifery education and the new Midwifery Ongoing Record of Achievement (MORA) initiated by the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) professional body. Our project involved working collaboratively with a number of HEIs to collectively build a comprehensive workbook, that will gather over 400 items for assessment from the student midwives in year one, in a workbook that will see them through their whole programme. Debbie and I were delighted to share this project at ALTC in the company of Kirstie Coolin (University of Nottingham), David Beasant (Sheffield Hallam University) and Marcela Watkinson (University of Derby), all of whom have been so active in our community of participants.

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Personal highlights

Highlights from ALTC21 for me included Mutale Nkonde’s keynote on ‘Advancing Racial Literacy in Tech’, and the interesting ethnographic research study into the interrelationship of participants’ studies, home and personal lives in a formal learning context by the University of Derby. From the whole conference, a key takeaway was that however you plan to accommodate reaching learners, one thing is certain; a well-designed, robust system can support learners at a distance to engage with their institution and experience that sense of belonging. Distance and hybrid learning is about so much more than the mechanics of delivering one module. 

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If you'd like to learn more about how PebblePad can help universities transform individual learning journeys into connected university-learner partnerships, visit our Nurturing Learner Wellbeing and Engagement page.

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An educational designer, Sarah has supported the integration and adoption of educational technologies and mediated learning in both post-compulsory educational institutions and in industry, from managing MOOC design on digital skills to teaching the Army how to build campfires to cook for the troops through a screen. Sarah's passion for community engagement through activism and lifelong learning, along with her former doctoral research on digital storytelling, comes in more than a little handy in her role as an Implementation Specialist. When Sarah unplugs from digital life, you may well find her on the tennis court, in the pool or out walking in the Yorkshire Dales.