CAVA conference 2023 reflections

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On Friday 1 December, we held our annual CAVA conference. We were delighted to have 90 attendees join us online from CAVA members, Access to HE providers, universities, QAA, and other interested educational organisations.

The theme of this year’s conference was ‘EdTech Opportunities for Access to HE Diplomas’. Education technology (or EdTech for short) is the combination of technology tools and educational practices to facilitate learning. We chose this topic as EdTech allows us to integrate the latest innovations into the classroom, to improve the teaching and learning experience for students and providers alike. Furthermore, as Access to HE Diplomas are designed to enable adults to achieve their aspirations through education, a key part of this is to give students the foundational knowledge to prepare them for higher education and beyond. In a world of continual technological advancement, it is important that Access to HE Diplomas equip students to embrace this change.

The conference focused on two key aspects of EdTech: artificial intelligence (AI) and online delivery. The agenda was packed with keynote presentations from Rob Stroud, QAA; Ben Whitaker, EduFuturists; and Rachel Whitton, Warrington and Vale Royal College; panel discussions featuring experts from Anglia Ruskin University, College of West Anglia, Craven College, Nottingham College, Truro and Penwith College, University of Suffolk and student representatives; networking and breakout discussion sessions; as well as our beloved annual CAVA student awards ceremony.

Reflections from the day

The need to embrace EdTech was best captured in a quote from Charles Darwin, shared by one of our keynote speakers Ben Whitaker: “It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent that survives. It is the one that is the most adaptable to change.”

The rise of AI tools and online delivery models requires us to revisit the fundamental foundation of our qualifications and review our educational goal, asking ourselves, ‘what is it we really need our students to know or be able to do?’ From there we need to ensure that learning outcomes remain current and useful, reflecting our changing expectations. We also need to integrate EdTech throughout our teaching practices to allow tutors to be creative and innovative, whilst taking advantage of the technologies’ efficiencies to reduce their workload. Embedding EdTech from the outset also means the appropriate infrastructure is implemented, such as good quality cameras and microphones built into the classroom to allow for HyFlex delivery.

Assessments should be designed to allow students to responsibly and critically use AI to enhance their learning. For example, Ben Whitaker shared his ‘C.H.A.T.’ model where students Check outputs, Highlight biases, Assess quality, and Trace use of AI through their references and appendices. Our panellists passionately argued for the redesign of assessments to remove opportunities for plagiarism - if an assessment can be completed by a generative AI tool, then it is no longer fit for purpose. There should be a move to collaborative creation with AI, and more opportunities for students to demonstrate and apply their knowledge.

Alongside embracing EdTech, there remains a need for flexibility and to retain students’ right to choose the extent to which they engage with EdTech. Especially with online delivery, our panellists highlighted the realities of digital fatigue due to the proliferation of platforms and social media sites. Course teams need to be mindful of creating yet another virtual space for students, and consider how online delivery can meet students in the digital spaces they already use.

Rachel Whitton shared her experiences and research into HyFlex teaching, where students can choose to attend sessions either in person or online; synchronously or asynchronously. This greatly increased the accessibility of delivery, especially for adult students who had health issues, caring responsibilities, and/or work commitments. Students with limited digital skills could then also engage in person and have time to develop the skills required for online learning.

With all forms of EdTech, our panellists stressed the importance of setting clear expectations for safeguarding. It was recommended that course teams co-design etiquette ground rules with students so that use of tools is appropriate. Use of EdTech tools should be transparent and monitored to ensure students remain safe.

Conference resources

All presentations and panel discussions were recorded. All attendees will be sent a copy of the recordings along with the resources shared on the day. These resources will also be available for all CAVA members in the website Members Area.

Thank you!

The CAVA team would like to thank all speakers and panel members for sharing their time and thought-provoking insights. We would also like to thank all of our attendees for their engagement and contributions throughout the day.