Monday, 19 December 2016

"Are you ready for your close-up?"

MOOC filmingI wasn't. But needs must and all that...

Last week, a film crew descended upon the RVC's student union bar, The Haxby, to record a series of videos for the BLE's MOOC 'Get Interactive: Practical Teaching With Technology'. The course launches, in partnership with the University of London, on the Coursera platform in Spring 2017. 

Introducing the MOOCOur MOOC is aimed at teachers of any level to learn new skills in developing more interactive and engaging online courses. Rather than the standard 'talking head' video lectures that are featured in most MOOCs, our video content will include many screencasts, which demonstrate how to create a range of activities. In addition to watching these, participants will be expected to research, investigate, practice and share what they learn as they go along. We've made the MOOC as active and participatory as we can within the restrictions that Coursera presents.

Academic chatWith my MOOC co-authors Nancy Weitz (digital learning specialist) and Eileen Kennedy (researcher in learning technology at UCL Institute of Education), we filmed the introductions for each of the three weeks of course and a few other pieces. The film crew from Imotion were terrific - very professional and made us novices feel totally at ease. 

Academic panelIn addition to these snippets, we also filmed a series of conversations, where academics (from the BLE partner institutions) informally discussed and shared their experiences of introducing innovative ways to encourage their students to collaborate with each other, making learning experiences dynamic and memorable. 

The three conversational topics we covered were:
  • Using multimedia tools and techniques to make teaching engaging
  • Encouraging student collaboration
  • Using online formative assessment and feedback
Chatting in the informal setting of the student bar, our Bloomsbury colleagues were able to share some really insightful and reflective accounts of where they have used technology in their practice. Please note that only tea and coffee were provided - we were working, after all...

Friday, 18 November 2016

Bloomsbury Enhancing Assessment & Feedback - closure event

"Viva PiƱata" by Peasap licenced under CC BY 2.0
On Wednesday 16th November, the BLE arranged a closure event to celebrate the achievements of the Bloomsbury Enhancing Assessment and Feedback project.  

Over 40 people from across the consortium and beyond signed up to hear about the original aims and purpose of what we set out to do. The event was hosted and introduced by Sarah Sherman, the project manager.

Following on from the introductory session, Leo Havemann from Birkbeck one of the members of the Project Advisory Board, provided some of the theoretical basis for the project and shared work on fitting practice from Bloomsbury into the MMU/Jisc Lifecycle for Electronic Management of Assessment (EMA). Leo also talked about how we worked closely with a large group of administrators from across the Colleges, to gauge their perceptions of the EMA workflow from their perspective. You can read more about this work here

The project commissioned consultants Nancy Weitz and Kathy Seddon to investigate and report on the way in which the BLE's Distance Learning and MOOC programmes manage assessment. Both Nancy and Kathy travelled from Dorset and Wales respectively to speak about the research they had conducted, which is available here

Three of the project's case study authors, who are academics from BLE partner institutions, spoke about the innovative approaches to assessment that they have incorporated into their teaching. Zhaoxia Pang's spoke of her pride for her students who excel in Chinese language learning and who benefit from accessing MP3 recordings she provides with personalised feedback. Steve Hirons brought along samples of rocks for us all to identify (with varying rates of success!), which highlighted for us how hard it was for his distance and blended students to have an equivalent learning experience to their on-campus peers. This was until Steve started using video as a means of assessment. Finally, Simon Rofe presented how he is able to offer dialogic means of peer interaction with his distance students by using peer feedback techniques using forums. You can read these and many more case studies under the Case Studies section of the project website.

"Impact" by Walter Wilhelm licenced under CC BY 2.0
To conclude the afternoon, Sarah Sherman invited attendees to consider how the BLE can make sure the great examples of work collected in the project can be usefully shared in order to ultimately impact practice. There is frustratingly no silver bullet for this; impact is one of the hardest things to measure, but it is hoped that sustained use of the BLE-Assessment mailing list and the support and involvement of the BLE Steering Group will be key to its success.

To watch a recording of the event, please visit this page from the project website.

Monday, 14 November 2016

Case studies on institutional approaches to the management of TEL services

As a member of the UCISA Academic Support Group, I was honoured to be a part of the team who put together a series of institutional case studies describing the management of TEL services. This collection complements the UCISA TEL Survey Report 2016 - see this blog post for more details. 

The following post has been kindly shared by Richard Walker from the University of York. You can access the original version here.

As a follow-up to the 2016 Technology-Enhanced Learning Survey, UCISA has just published a companion Best Practice Guide (2016 TEL Survey case studies), showcasing different institutional approaches to the management of technology enhanced learning services within UK higher education. A sample group of 9 institutions from the 110 which completed the UCISA TEL Survey were selected for case study interviews, and were drawn from different national HE sectors and mission groups. E-learning managers and service leaders from these institutions were interviewed over the summer of 2016, and were asked to comment on their institution’s strategic outlook and governance framework for learning technology usage learning and teaching activities.

The interviews highlight the increasing profile of technology enhanced learning (TEL) in strategic thinking. As we know from the 2016 Survey data, TEL is commonly addressed as a theme in institutional learning, teaching and assessment strategies across the sector, with 91% of responding institutions confirming that this is the case within their institution. The case studies reveal how TEL is also influencing other areas of university business such as online and transnational education and distance learning provision. As an illustration, distance learning is identified as a growth area for Edinburgh Napier University and Queen Mary University of London and seven of the nine institutions that were interviewed have now established some form of fully-online provision. This represents a notable change  from the position recorded in the 2014 UCISA case studies (blog post here), where fully online provision and MOOC delivery had not progressed that far within the sector, with the institutional focus firmly on the development of TEL services for campus-based course delivery.

The role of learning technology in supporting the student experience on campus remains though a key priority for the sector. We have seen in the 2016 TEL Survey data (blog post here) how UK institutions have invested strongly in new TEL services such as document sharing and lecture capture services as part of their blended learning provision for campus-based students. Legacy services such as e-submission of student work and the flexible provision of learning and teaching resources through VLEs have also been ‘mainstreamed’ though policy initiatives to guide academic practice, including the introduction of minimum standards for technology usage in module delivery, and now represent a staple part of the student experience across the sector. Note also the recent 2016 Heads of e-Learning Forum Report on the electronic management of assessment, which highlights electronic submission of student work as the only form of submission as now ‘entering the mainstream’ across the sector.

Building on this context, the case studies shine a light on how TEL is now shaping the campus-based student experience in other strategic areas of institutional activity – most notably through IT provisioning for learning and teaching spaces and the development of the campus estate.  The interviews reveal how institutions are addressing themes such as the redesign of teaching and social spaces in support of active learning and pedagogic innovation.  For example, Edinburgh Napier University’s corporate strategy makes explicit reference to establishing teaching spaces supporting active learning which are ‘enabled by innovative technology’.  The University of Sheffield is focusing on the relationship between TEL, the estate and campus-based teaching to promote flipped learning delivery as part of the development of its blended learning strategy.
How are these strategic initiatives being overseen and carried forward?  The case studies are insightful in capturing how institutions are establishing dedicated governance arrangements to support strategic technology developments. Aberystwyth University, Queen Mary University London and Sheffield Hallam University have all established their own E-Learning / TEL Strategy Groups to oversee technology developments across the institution and The University of Sheffield has set up a Digital Learning group chaired by their Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Teaching and Learning. Edge Hill University operates a two-tiered governance model, with a central Learning and Teaching Strategic Leads Group, combined with faculty based committees which also monitor TEL developments and report on them to a Student Experience sub-committee and then up to the University’s Learning and Teaching Committee.

In addition to strategic outlook and governance arrangements, the case studies also touch on institutional responses to the Teaching Excellence Framework White Paper and recent consumer protection law advice for students as set out by the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA), exploring how TEL services may be affected as a consequence of these developments.  Each case study interview concludes with a discussion of future challenges in TEL service provision, which predictably touch on staff development provision and scalability issues in building up TEL provision to meet institutional demands.

To access the case studies, please download the full Best Practice Guide at:

For a commentary on what the 2016 UCISA TEL Survey data tells us about technology adoption trends and educational change within UK higher education, please see the following YouTube presentation:

Friday, 21 October 2016

Migrating to Moodle: reminiscence therapy

This morning, I was invited to the University of West London to talk about the Bloomsbury College's move from Blackboard to Moodle, which took place in 2012-13. Amazing to think we've been on the platform for four full academic year! Colleagues at UWL are starting to consider their VLE options and Moodle is one possible solution they might adopt. The presentation, which you can see below, gave me the chance to reminisce over the process we went through together to manage the migration. A lot of great work and effort went in to running pilots, consultations, events and training materials. The project represented a great example of the collaborative spirit of the BLE - and one that continues today.

Tuesday, 11 October 2016

BLE Enhancing Assessment & Feedback Project Closure Event


You will be aware of the assessment project that the BLE consortium has been working on over the past two years. To mark the end of this focus, we are holding a closure event on the afternoon of Wednesday 16th November, which will act as a celebration of the project. At the event, we will present the research findings, and a number of invited speakers will share their work, highlighting good examples of practice in assessment.

1500 Coffee
1515 Welcome - Sarah Sherman, BLE
1530 The EMA Lifecycle in Bloomsbury - Leo Havemann, Birkbeck
1545 Assessment and DL - Nancy Weitz & Kathy Seddon, Architela
1600 Administrators Perspectives of EMA - Sarah Sherman
1615 Case Study 1: Zhaoxia Pang, Senior Lecturer in Chinese, SOAS
1630 Case Study 2: Steve Hirons, Senior Lecturer in Earth Sciences, Birkbeck
1645 Case Study 3: Simon Rofe, Senior Lecturer in Global Diplomacy, SOAS
1700 End

If you are interested in attending, please contact Sarah Sherman.

For more information about the project, visit