A zillion years ago my first job in the BBC videotape library involved delivering very large and extremely heavy reels of two inch tape to the assistants in the “edit suites” who would load them onto a VT machine the size of a small van. Fast forward to Manchester 9th October 2009 and mounting the stage in the main lecture theatre is Jonathan Drori CBE, one time VT assistant and now invited speaker at day 2 of ALT-C. Perhaps it was this common heritage, or more likely his highly pragmatic approach that made Jonathan’s presentation a welcome breath of fresh air in what was threatening to become a rather stuffy event. Working through a top ten of why most pilot projects fail, Jonathan highlighted the frequent over- emphasis on meeting the requirements of funding authorities and peer review panels and not enough focus on what is actually required to deliver something tangible to meet identified customer needs. While many pilots have very effective project managers this does not equate to sound editorial leadership – or as Jonathan put it – someone to point out when the pilot outcome is just “a little bit crap”. While this was somewhat provocative given the nature of the predominantly academic audience (hooray) the recording of Jonathan’s presentation should be compulsory viewing for anyone planning a pilot project in the near future
If Jonathan brought a breath of fresh air, today’s keynote conjured up a hurricane. Fresh from a senior role at Microsoft (so the glowing apple on the macbooks in the audience still had a kryptonite effect on him) Martin Bean is just two weeks away from taking us his post as the OU’s 5th Vice Chancellor . The span of his discourse was so vast – and so relevant – that I recommend everybody interested in the future use of technology in the HE sector to watch his presentation. If you really don’t have time then the broad conclusion was that sound pedagogy and practice should always come before the application of technology – perhaps not revolutionary but fundamental and, in my experience, frequently overlooked.
Helped by these two star turns the conference really seemed to get underway today with most other events I attended producing some interesting examples of practice and thought provoking debate. There was little truly innovative but a lot of reassuring sharing, mutual support and sunshine (a very rare resource in Manchester).