From education to employment

Developing #VoiceFirst VLE: @Jisc launch 1st #EdTech challenge

Students working on hackathon pitch ©Paul Bailey

We’re looking for great ideas – and great people – to work with us on solutions for some of the big upcoming edtech challenges.

So we’re running three themed competitions in 2019 to help us find them. 

Our first challenge

For the first edtech challenge we’re looking for ideas about developing a virtual learning environment (VLE) without a screen.  

What might this new-style VLE use for its interface?

Senior co-design manager Paul Bailey suggests that artificial intelligence, augmented reality, virtual reality, wearable technologies and voice controls might all play a part. He adds: 

“A new approach to the VLE would open up the possibility of new benefits and better experiences.

“A voice-activated system of rewards for getting the right answer, for example, could offer some students a powerful incentive to participate, and potentially improve outcomes for them and for their group as a whole.” 

The edtech challenge is open to all college and university students and staff with good ideas to share.

There isn’t much time as entries close on Monday 4 February 2019. 

You don’t have to build anything – just send us up to 1,000 words explaining your concept, including the vision and the benefits, and provide a design overview in any suitable medium. 

Improving the student experience

We’ve deliberately made the ideas challenges very easy for everyone to enter, whether they’re technologically minded or not, because we want to see what’s on students’ minds.

Sue Attewell, Jisc’s head of change for further education and skills, explains: 

“The entries will show us the things that could really improve the students’ experience. That could be something genuinely visionary but equally students might just need something that helps them study more flexibly to support their increasingly busy lives. 

“By gathering in as many ideas as possible we can get a better understanding of what really matters to people and make sure we use that knowledge to keep our work on track. 

“We will, of course, reward people for their effort by offering prizes for the best ideas and we could also work with one or two to develop new products or services.” 

There are cash prizes of up to £1,000 for the winner and runners-up, and all shortlisted candidates will see their ideas showcased via our edtech blog and at Digifest in March. But those aren’t the only reasons to enter.  

A positive experience

Brad Forsyth

Ravensbourne University student Brad Miller took part in an earlier edtech challenge, with his idea “app to the future” – an app to help students find the courses, work experience placements or careers that meets their needs and help them make applications and track progress.

Brad’s vision for the project is to get people into the jobs they want to be in and developing the app via the edtech challenge has been a positive experience for him: 

“I had the idea for the app a few years ago and I knew I could get it off the ground with some backing. So, I entered the competition and got shortlisted, which led to us all attending a five-day hackathon event to help us develop our concepts further. 

“We looked at how it might work, how users would navigate within it and how it should be promoted, and then we pitched the worked-up idea in a “Dragon’s Den” format so that Jisc could select the winner and runners up. 

“Everyone who took part in the hackathon came out of the process with some really useful experience, a more developed business idea to take forward, and a network of contacts.

“This is one of several things I’ve done with Jisc. I’ve taken part in student panels at events like Connect More and I’m a student partner working on ways to make sure developments in edtech do what students want them to.

“It’s been a great way to get practice with speaking in public, it’s become second nature, so presentations don’t hold any fear for me. And I’ve got to know people within Jisc who I can speak to for expert advice and to open doors – it’s such a diverse organisation and its connections are amazing.” 

Get involved

If you’d like more information and details of how to enter, please visit our edtech challenge web page. Remember that entries close on Monday 4 February 2019. 

There will be two further ideas challenges taking place in spring and summer 2019 – the second will launch on Tuesday 12 March 2019 and the theme will be announced in the new year. 

Good luck!

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