ALT Conference 25th Anniversary (2018)

Posted on: 11 October 2018 by Ben McGrae in Conference & Event Reports

A colleague and I attended the annual Association for Learning Technology conference in Manchester on its 25th anniversary. Together we prepared a post about the event and our experiences.

What is the event?

The event was the annual Association for Learning Technology and is an annual 3 day conference open to educational developers, learning technologists and anyone else that works with technology to support teaching and learning in Further and Higher Education. After successfully hosting it at the University of Liverpool last year, the event returned to its previous home in Manchester to celebrate its 25th anniversary.

An overview of the day:

Alex (Regular attendee and Presenter) @alexgspiers :

I feel it’s important to remind myself that I’ve been fortunate during my career in learning technologies, all the institutions have recognised and valued participation at the ALT conference. Not everyone receives the same support in their personal development and for that I’m grateful. My attendance at the 25th birthday in Manchester will be the eighth time I’ve been active in this wonderful community event, and only the second time I’ve delivered a presentation.

This time I presented with the bubbly #byod4l team, and led the #ALTNWESIG meeting as well. So, my first impression of this year’s conference, even before I got there, was busy!  Looking over the schedule for the next three days how could I manage it all? Meeting with colleagues past and present, catching up with suppliers and their products, saying hello to new people and meeting people in real life, enjoying the social events really does leave you feeling drained at the end of the conference. Albeit in a very beneficial and educated way. Ideas have been proposed, positions challenged, evidence shared and top tips pooled. 

Ben (First Time Attendee) Twitter: @bmcgrae :

Arriving for my first ALT conference on a drizzly morning, I had a few words rattling around my head of what to expect.  “Technology, eLearning and innovation” were what I was hoping to be exposed to from what I had absorbed online before.  When I left after three great days and sat on a sun drenched train home, “inspiration, friendship and community” were another three things of what I came away with.

I was definitely exposed to my first three words throughout the conference. The programme was stacked full of talks and workshops focussed on technology, eLearning and innovation.  The highlight for me were all three keynote talks were excellent.  Tressie, Amber and Maren were all great presenters in their own right, there were common themes in all the talks looking into the future of eLearning & TEL, how it is becoming more embedded in shaping curriculum design and education strategies.  I found them to be thought provoking in reviewing my own role here in CIE, the skills I have in eLearning and how I can help the team in delivering the university’s education strategy over the next few years.

What did you get out of the conference?


For me, the three keynote presentations by Tressie, Amber and Maren were the stand out sessions and were emblematic of what I feel was a more critical, reflective and ethical approach to what we do. Not only was this the first conference I’ve attended with an all-female cast of keynote speakers, it was also the first to really chime in with my current reflections about this thing called learning technology. As Maren stated, we are beyond advocacy and we need to consider more keenly the impact we have on staff and students as a result of the tools our institutions provide. Amber encouraged us to voice our nuanced opinions if and when we are invited to the senior meetings. Take the opportunity to get a richer point of view across. Tressie provided a timely reminder that the context of who and where we work matters. A simple point but one that we sometimes overlook in our rush get the job done. I’ve distilled these presentations into short soundbites for the purposes of this blog post but I would encourage you to watch them.


The most useful workshop I attended was Mark Richardson’s “GRASP: A technology enhanced learning design framework” which went over how Mark had created playing cards that were separated in colour to each of Bloom’s taxonomy model stages, and had suggestions written on the cards of what technology can be used to reach that stage.  I found it useful as we’ll be aligning TEL & eLearning tools we have at Liverpool to the attributes and hallmarks in Curriculum 2021, and this seemed like a nice exercise to follow to get staff engaged with using technology in their teaching.  I enjoyed a lot of the talks on offer but found some were aimed towards student support and well-being, which I can understand would be useful for other Learning Technologists involved with student support but wasn’t ideal for my current role in CIE.

What I wasn’t expecting was that ALT is more than a series of talks, it was the networking that was beneficial to me.  Being able to meet similar people from other institutions, share practices, worries, connect with online, was hugely beneficial for my own well-being and network portfolio.  ALT were excellent at giving attendees plenty of time and opportunity to network with the many social events they planned.  This was summed up nicely at the ALT awards dinner on the second night where the wine and conversation flowed, it did make you appreciate that you are part of a great community and that you’re not on this career pathway alone.

Final thoughts:


After the three days, I feel ALT did go beyond my expectations of what I was to get out the conference.  It did hit the keywords “technology, eLearning and innovation”, but I came away feeling inspired, that I had made friends, and to appreciate that I am part of a community that shares the same education values I have.  Hopefully I’ll get the opportunity to attend next year in Edinburgh and go one step further to present my own work.