#LTHEchat… the journey so far…

It has been a fascinating journey so far. I am referring to the new #LTHEchat project. It all started with an email in which I took ‘collaborative licence’, Sue will remember this, that developed rapidly into a concept and the implementation of the chat with a team of four. This is what can be achieved if there is trust, good will, commitment, a collaborative spirit but also a vision, a shared vision! Really important, I think.

I wanted to write a little something about the #LTHEchats for a while now but never got around to it… and I do feel a bit guilty about it as reflection is vital for learning and development. Perhaps in a way we had the opportunity to do this collaboratively already when the #LTHEchat team was invited to write an article about this initiative very early on so in a way we have come together and reflected on it collaboratively which was really useful for all of us at the early stages of this project. The article will be published in January 2015 by ALISS and we will also share it through the LTHE site as we have made this available under a Creative Commons licence. But we also share our reflections as a team in communication with each other, even if not shared publicly.

Ok, back to my personal reflections: I am finally doing this as there is a natural break in between chats due to Christmas and New Year and I thought I definitely need to reflect on how I think it has been so far. I started writing this over the last few days using notes on my phone on my train journey to work.

When the four of us got together, Sue, David, Peter and myself we were not sure were this project would take us, if there would be colleagues and students in our own institutions and elsewhere who would join us for the chats…. the big question was: would it be just the four of us every Wednesday 8-9pm? We decided to offer the chats up to Christmas… as we could not really predicts what would happen…

Well, it is now almost Christmas and the response from the community has been really positive and encouraging. We have organised eight chats so far with five guest facilitators. We are already fully booked until after Easter… and the programme includes a wide range of guests, educators and students – a variety of learning and teaching topics will be explored and this is all really exciting!!! The topics emerge through our guests and the open community which is forming.

It is truly wonderful when people come forward and openly state how useful they have found the #LTHEchats for their professional development and how they feel part of a community. Collegiality is highlighted often, which is wonderful. For us the LTHEchats are a great opportunity for speedy bite-size professional development in the area of learning and teaching for colleagues in our own institutions but also more widely… when there are perhaps less or different distractions than during the normal working day. Would the chats also have worked during the day? I don’t know. Would be interesting to find out what the community thinks.

The #LTHEchats are a great opportunity to connect with like-minded people wherever they are, feel part of a community, discuss and debate learning and teaching to further our own individual and collective understanding, share ideas, engage in further explorations and consider changing parts of our practices based on an informed rationale. #LTHEchats have shown that we are on fire and that the academic community is keen in discussing learning and teaching more openly than ever before, perhaps?

Each week the #LTHEchat is focused around a specific learning and teaching theme. There are invited guest facilitators and others who contact us directly and put themselves forward to lead a chat. More recently we introduced student led chats where students can ask questions they always wanted to ask their tutors. We are very excited about this and really look forward to our first student-led chat in the New Year. The community also has the opportunity to vote for their favourite topic and share an idea for a future tweetchat at any moment in time via Twitter and the #LTHEchat site.

From the outset we planned to explore the possibility to hand over management of tweetchats for a whole month to an institution. We are still keen to do this. So if you are reading this and you would like to take over #LTHEchat for a month, get in touch with the team to discuss this and make it happen.

We are using freely available social media, such as Twitter were the chats happen, a supporting website for announcements and archiving using WordPress as well as Google drive for administrative tasks and programme coordination and Dropbox for further resources development, presentations and artwork linked to the project. There is actually a lot of work attached to a one hour chat which does confirm that prep for anything we do is really important. One person wouldn’t be able to run the whole project. But maybe I am wrong. Maybe it would be possible… The difference however when doing something like this collaboratively is that the load is shared, strengths from collaborators are maximised, there is ongoing exchange of ideas that enrich the project, but also the members of the team and there is open and ongoing peer review too which helps us all develop and grow but also the project. But there needs to be trust, commitment and a shared vision… as mentioned already.

I have been working for a while now with Sue on a number of projects and we have found it a really successful and smooth collaboration. We understand each other really well. We are open and honest with each other and know that we will be there for each other too. I think our personal strengths complement each other well and our personalities are compatible too.

I have also been working with David and Peter on other projects, such as the BYOD4L and an Open OER week 14 project so we knew each other and we appreciate how we work.  There was a lot of excitement in the air about our collaboration from the beginning. It is still there.

image source: here

Looking back I have to say I was looking forward to all chats, the ones I co-facilitated but also all others I participated. There was definitely a buzz and a waterfall of tweets in a very short time and the exchanges were definitely worthwhile. I learnt a lot so far, so thank you everybody! According to Peter’s numbers we had between 250 and 700 tweets within an hour. Wow! That is a lot. As this is a wide open initiative it is really difficult to pin down how many participants are involved and how many specifically from our own institutions.

Maybe we could come up with a way to encourage colleagues from our own institutions to come out of the woods so that we can connect further with them and their students locally. We just need to find a way to do this. If you are reading this and have some ideas, please get in touch with us.

For me personally it was important to note what colleagues were saying, show interest, trigger further reflection and help them feel part of a community so that engagement increases. The #LTHEchats are for all who teach or support learning in HE and for the student community. It is an open community or a collective if you like. All voices are heard and welcome. We engage in academic dialogue and debate, share experiences and ideas, resources and links… It is not just the facilitators asking questions. Participants are asking them too. This is something that is currently  developing and I have seen it growing over the last few weeks.

I would like to take this opportunity and thank my dear colleagues Sue, Peter and David for making this project possible, all our guest facilitators, our chat participants and our very own artist Ellie Livermore. A very special thank you goes to Prof. Simon Lancaster for his ongoing support and many many others.

Wishing you a lovely festive break and a healthy, happy and creative New Year!

The #LTHEchat will be back in January for the first joint chat with #BYOD4Lchat on the 21st of January, 8pm UK time. See you all then!