Blog Archives

Shaping academic practice for the new decade


The (virtual) 18th Academic Practice and Technology Conference (#aptconf) 

12 presentation rooms, two keynotes and an amazing ‘high fidelity’ site for networking – well done to UCLs Simon Walker and Sandra Lusk leading the way with the virtual MSTeams conference. 

Networking space

The team used MSLive Events for the keynotes, and Dr Gideon Shimison launched the event with his keynote ‘The Brave New University’ reflecting on what has really changed since the 1950s model of learning depicted in the cartoon. He outlined the ‘VUCA’ realities of today (Volatility, Uncertainty, Ambiguity an Complexity), suggesting a Cyber-Physcial model of learning where on site communities moved through stages of learn; master; communicate to a model of online open community. The Brave New University needs to move beyond the model to innovation and mixed realities, multi-modal interaction, mixed social networks. Spaced repetition and exams and from traditional programming of courses to mixed and adapting, with a truly student-centred focus.

The 1950s – have times really changed?

Our session, ‘A humanising response to scaling at speed’ (Debbie Holley, Ian Donaldson and John Moran) explored the work the Department of Nursing Sciences undertook to scale at speed as third year Nursing Students prepared to undertake their final six months In practice, called up by the NHS to work to support the Covid-19pandemic. Drawing upon the work of Len Vygotsky, we scaffolded support using technology as the proxy for the ‘more capable peer’ (Cook 2010) . This body of work reflects the humanising value-set and community of practice approaches that underpin the whole of the Nursing Curriculum. We co-produced a ‘Corona Virus Teachinar’ Unit to host podcasts, tech chat show recordings, guest slots from experts, and created a ‘Digital Nurse’ Talis Aspire reading list to model the importance of exemplary online reading lists to complement moving our practices online.  

Link theory to practice

Next, Sandra Lusk presented the UCL work on students experiences of the pandemic, emphasising the key need to ensure access to the online – we all echoed the examples shared of students, and staff, disadvantaged due to unreliable technology, lack of study space, poor internet access, and good learning design, thought through to meet the need of all is essential moving forward. 

Sandra Lusk and the student experience

Allison Littlejohn and Eileen Kennedy then presented on ‘The Challenges and Opportunities of the Rapid Move to Online teaching in Response to Covid-19′, once again highlighting inequalities, gender issues and the over reliance on live video conference platforms making teaching difficult and stressful with limited student engagement. Their recommendations:    

Five key conclusions and recommendations from their research: 

1. Support for online teaching and learning in the new academic year should focus on learning design that shifts the emphasis away from tutor presentation via video (Zoom etc) 

2. Pedagogical support should be provided for ways of synchronous interaction and engagement with students 

3. Learning design support should be provided for asynchronous student discussion and collaborative activity 

4. Online short and flexible ie Just in Time professional development should be provided to allow tutors to gain first-hand experience of learning design and the use of tools to engage students 

5. Ensure staff have sufficient time to develop their courses since development for online learning and teaching is heavily front loaded 

The image is a woman who feels the ‘shiny tech thing’ held high is the institutional priority across the sector

The always welcome JISC session saw Sarah Knight and Clare Killen discussed digital onboarding issues, and highlighted the importance of a joined up institutional approach. The guide to the JISC toolkit: supporting the digital experience of new students is essential reading for institutional, courses leaders as well as individual tutors designing their learning for the autumn and individuals preparing their units. 

Clearly this is just a snapshot of sessions I was able to attend. The whole conference has been recorded and all sessions will be available from the conference website in due course. Link:  https://aptconference.org.uk/index.php/apt/apt2020 


A CEMP production! The Centre for Excellence in Media Practice (CEMP) twitter: @CEMPBU and my ‘home from home’ for technology enhanced learning pedagogic research hosted an event to support staff as they think forward about planning online teaching for the autumn.

Huge thanks committee organisers and session facilitators: exemplary Chair Dr Karen Fowler-Watt who prepped us all for our sessions, award winning journalist Miriam Phillips ; and Dr Salvatore Scifo who is liaising with our management teams to feed back the outcomes of the sessions.

Organised by Prof Julian McDougall and Associate Professor Anna Feigenbaum, co-directors of the Research Centre, 54 staff from across BU took part as we shared research and co-created ideas around 4 themes: large undergraduate lectures, smaller multiple seminar groups, lab productions and smaller groups of students  of post grad students.

Prof Julian McDougall started by setting out some key principles, before we were joined by John Potter, our visiting Fellow from UCL, who started with a great quote from his latest book:

Transitioning from offline to online teaching and learning has long been found by its earliest researchers and exponents to be complex, problematic and evolutionary, though it can be done by managing the unrealistic expectations that you will doing substantially the same thing with time, space ad material artefacts as you did in face-to-face teaching.

Williamson, Eynon and Potter (2020)

Key principles: the CEMP Research workshop June 2020

1 teach through the screen, not to the screen. Your teaching space is now a multiplicity of places. A different space, maybe a third space

2. More than a pivot. Mindset – forget we have a campus, think about how the campus limits what we do with our students. Shift to OPEN education?

3. Flip the default to asynchronous, real time as the supplement

4. Dynamic practices – the direction of flow is not about static content being delivered but about open, agentive and productive spaces for both learners and educators

5. Critical pedagogy of the inexpert, porous expertise – real co-creation, of learning design. We ‘own’ the curriculum but not the social practices of teaching and learning

@NicolePonsford  joined us, #edtech #TechforGood talking about how to influence and engage audiences, not just our internal student audiences, but far wider, through social media. Her work as co-founder of the Gender Equality Collective (GEC) is an inspiring example of collaborations.

Sharing practice respectfully via Zoom

The ‘Learning from Experience’ slot:

Dr Mark Readman talked about a decade of experience with running the Bournemouth EdD in Media Practice online.


Prof Debbie Holley talking about how theory underpinned the approach to scaling online learning in Nursing ‘’in a hurry’. Her talk, co-created with Learning Technologist John Moran ‘Using technology as a mediator:  The Vygotsky ‘Zone of Proximal Development’ (ZPD) revisited’ pulled together the resources from their combined work, now a best practice case study (please contact John or Debbie for a copy if external to BU)

A short break was followed by:

Best practice with designing for engaging and communicating with students using our tools in Brightspace  (BU LTs Tracey Webb and Dave Hunt) who talked through recent research on Zoom by students, and shared their experiences of discipline based practice

We all then went into breakout rooms to co-create a padlet around 4 scenarios, before re-convening and having a concluding discussion.

The internal BU documents will be shared through Sharepoint, and this includes worked examples of how to approach different kinds of learning scenarios; please contact individuals for further information on any of the presentations.

Great to work with such fabulous colleagues!

Useful resources: