Online Learning and its Discontents

Around ten years ago an IT-savvy colleague called me a shoveller. It was an accusation; that I was not rising to the challenges of e-learning because I was simply shovelling resources I had already developed (in a previous era) onto an e-learning space (like Blackboard). I was guilty as charged and I was grateful to him for alerting me to the need to curriculum-build from the ground up, and to accept that the principles of universal design applied equally to the world of IT as anything else. Continue reading

What is an educational truth?

‘Fake News!’ The rallying call of Donald Trump, which he uses to urge his supporters not to believe mainstream media stories, particularly those that don’t tally with how he sees things. This is, literally, the world according to Trump, and that world is a very right wing one, centred on unfettered capitalism, individualism, and a return to the good old days. But the left has always distrusted the mainstream media too, arguing that far from being a socialist conspiracy, most of the large media outlets grew big precisely because they benefitted from capitalistic practices, including support from corporate advertising. In which case, if the media trades in truth, it does so in a world of mistrust and compromise. Continue reading

Flexible Learning Fundamentals

Since the initial lockdown in March, Universities and other HEIs have mobilised the creation of workstreams, groups and packets (whatever the preferred term) to invest substantial time and effort in the planning, contingency and re-planning of what might (or might not) lie ahead and how we should respond. The community and creativity of colleagues across HE has been mobilised to develop a wide range of responses so that we can continue to deliver high quality education and these responses have been shaped through the outpouring of sets of principles and guidance designed to offer clarity on how we should go about continuing to offer that quality educational experience. However, these policies appear to be largely tailored towards a particular direction of travel e.g. principles we should follow if we are to migrate fully online, guidance for effectively blending students’ learning, guidance for effective hybrid teaching. Particularly during the initial stages of response, this guidance is particularly helpful. Continue reading

Episode 2: Head Space and the multitasking myth

According to popular stereotypes, women are good at multitasking, suggesting that men are not. However, research shows that, in general, people are not good at multitasking (Laloyaux et al, 2018): the human brain does not function optimally when called upon to multitask to the degree that we currently do (Levitin 2014). Levitin also outlines that the brain has an attention network and a daydreaming network. When one is on, the other is off. Attention evolved to keep us alive, whereas daydreaming allows for downtime, vital space for the brain to drift aimlessly. This is creative, but also restorative. Levitin refers to these two networks as ‘yin and yang’. Have you noticed that you day-dream less and less these days? Academic work demands multitasking, which keeps the attention network on alert and stifles daydreaming. Letting your mind wander will never be factored into workloads; it is the antithesis of ‘work’. And yet it isn’t. Day dreaming allows us to continue to function at a high level. It is essential. Continue reading

Just-in-time CPD

How it started

It was 5pm on Monday 16th March. I was at a staff meeting at Ravensbourne University London when the PM announced the start of lock-down which would mean a fast shift to digital learning. As I left the building, one question kept going through my mind: ‘As an Educational Developer, what is my role now?’
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Learning design in an emergency

Over the last five years, UCL’s ABC Learning Design (ABC LD) has grown in popularity across the sector as an effective ‘rapid development’ workshop helping teaching teams create a visual ‘storyboards’ of student journeys. Storyboard are built using pre-printed cards representing the types and sequences of learning, and the (blended) activities that can be used to meet the learning outcomes. Participants overwhelmingly find the 90’ minute ‘sprint’ approach engaging and fruitful, leading to pedagogic ideas and conversations that continue long after the event itself.
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The show goes on for Academic Professional Apprenticeships: A celebration of the first Research Pathway Endpoint Assessment

Amidst the flurry of emails about moving to remote/online/blended teaching, and worries about the sectors finances, the Academic Professional Apprenticeship (APA) programme at Exeter quietly received notification that the external Endpoint Assessor – Advance HE – had passed the nation-wide first end-point assessment for the APA research pathway. Continue reading

Digital accessibility and the curriculum

Digital accessibility has been at the forefront of many institutional discussions following the introduction of the Public Sector Bodies (Websites and Mobile Applications) Accessibility Regulations 2018 which came in to effect on the 23rd of September 2018 setting out accessibility standards that must be met by all Public Sector Bodies including universities Continue reading