A presentation to the ALT Evaluations of Learners’ Experiences of e–Learning Special Interest Group (ELESIG) group by Debbie Holley, Professor of Learning Innovation, and Dr Heidi Singleton Department of Nursing Sciences, Bournemouth University
The challenges of embedding digital technologies in learning, teaching and assessment are complex, and rethinking the roles of educators has been at the foreground of recent Educause New Horizon expert panel reports. The most recent Jisc Student digital experience insights survey (2020) report highlighted that only 20% of students have experiences of simulation. The challenges of scale seem insurmountable – however, in this session we suggest some low-tech solutions, and invite participants to come along bringing their mobile phones and a google cardboard headset. We discussed some of the barriers and solutions to changing practice, drawing upon the findings of the ‘State of XR and Immersive Learning Outlook Report (2020); The Microsoft ‘class of 2030’ report; and reported on some of our low tech/hi tech innovations. The slides include a link to an EU learning layers position paper on Scaling for innovation.
The sides are available here, and the recording from the ALT ELESIG pages.
Please complete our questionnaire! Do your children, or friends’ children have itchy eczema? We are trying to find out how we can use Virtual Reality to help get a child relaxed and able to sleep.
How can you help? We have ethics approval for our questionnaire, and want as many people as possible to share their ideas. On the questionnaire, you can offer to be a willing family happy to test out some ideas from home, using google cardboards we will supply,
Our Nursing students using VR.
About the Project
Bournemouth University would like to know what kind of VR game will help children with eczema relax and stop scratching.
Can I take part in the project?
If you are aged between 7 and 11 years old, and you have eczema, ask your grown up if you can take part in our research project.
What do I need to do?
If you want to take part, then you will need to complete an online questionnaire (your adult can help you read/type). Every child who completes a questionnaire will be entered into our prize draw with the chance to win a £50 Amazon voucher or one of five £10 Amazon vouchers (selected randomly by our computer). Each child can complete the questionnaire once (so if you have more than one eligible child then you can do more than one entry per household). The deadline is the TBC
When you fill in the questionnaire it will give you the chance to volunteer to take part in an optional zoom session with Dr Heidi Singleton/ Professor Debbie Holley. The zoom session will allow you to view the virtual reality game/scene and then you can let us know what you think about it. We will send you a googlecardboard headset in the post (which you can keep), you will be able to view the software via this headset. Every child who takes part in the zoom session will be sent a £20 Amazon voucher (to their adult’s email address).
Where can I find the online survey?
The questionnaire is now live, and we would love your replies by Wednesday 23rd June Link Here
This year’s programme focused on learning and teaching, and libraries with a day dedicated to each key theme:
Reframing the student experience
Tomorrow’s technology in today’s education
Culture and resilience
I was privileged to be on the Conference Steering Group, helping the great @Jisc team to frame the conversations as this amazing event unfolded. With Dr Sara Jones (deputy dean in the faculty of computing, engineering and media, De Montford University) and Cameron Mirza we worked with Jess Moore the senior editorial officer to record two pre-conference ‘thought pieces’ considering education of the future. We then co-authored a series of blog posts to share the learning from the discussions with the AdvanceHE National Teaching Fellows (NTFs).
In December we considered what has the pandemic taught universities about leadership and discussed the evolving role of digital technologies, the changing needs of students, and the future role of higher education. Despite the challenges of the sector pivoting to online at such short notice, we all agreed that continuing to move ahead with the digital agenda for HE was critical, but more needed to be done re equity, mental health and curriculum (re) design allied with excellent learning design.
February 2021 saw us reconvene to consider digital leadership and our aspirations for the sector. As the ONS reported that month, 37% of students were nor satisfied with their studies, and 63% reported wellbeing concerns, our panel concluded that, as educators we should Never Assume: Internet access, student access to devices of their own, access to their own study space in family homes.
We also concluded that Universities were already starting to business reengineer their processes, and this work should continue through to considering the ‘student experience of the future’; our panel saw these changes as essential in an area of very rapid HE policy change.
Our third conclusion was, as the sector faces a series of challenges, and we need to co-operate for successful scaling up and moving forward. Technology and the confidence about when to use (and when to step away from use) is crucial for shaping the future of education.
Moderated by Jisc managing director of higher education, Jonathan Baldwin, I joined a panel discussing ‘Shaping tomorrow together – the future of education and learning’.
Alex Butler, the chief digital and information officer, Bath University;
Aftab Hussein, the ILT manager from Bolton college, whos amazing work on ffv ; and
Steven Hope, head of independent learning, Leeds City College we explored the biggest challenges and hurdles for 2021,
Debbie Holley, Professor of Learning Innovation, Bournemouth University
In our discussions, we explored what the global pandemic has taught us about current and future student generations; understanding what will prove to be the lasting benefits of the new learning model(s) that the sector has quickly adopted; and finally the biggest challenges and hurdles in 2021?
Out of four days of fabulous sessions, panels and keynotes it is impossible to even start to highlight the range and depth of work covered, but for me, a key highlight was Prof Steven Heppell in conversation. Amongst all the doom mongering and talk in the UK press about school age, Steve sees this generation of learners, given some curricula freedom, as exceptional. This work is currently underway in Australia. Find our more at http://heppell.net/
Based on our research we make the following recommendations for universities, sector agencies and government:
Universities to use their strategic and structural planning processes to effect the digital transformation of learning and teaching, ensuring that sponsorship is provided by governing bodies and executive teams
Universities to review their strategic investment in digital learning and teaching
Universities to make investment plans to mitigate the heightened cyber security risks that arise from greater dependence on digital technologies
Universities to think radically about the scale and scope of their learning and teaching activities, prioritising blended learning approaches wherever possible
Universities to accelerate the adoption of blended learning, with close involvement of students in all aspects from design to delivery
Universities to ensure inclusivity and accessibility are integral considerations in curriculum redesign
Universities to ensure their professional development plans include digital training, peer support mechanisms and reward and recognition incentives to encourage upskilling
Universities and sector organisations to establish research to remain in step with the changing digital preferences and expectations of prospective higher education students
Universities, government and funders to provide additional funding or means to reduce digital poverty as a barrier to students accessing higher education
Digital wellbeing is one of the fast-emerging ‘hot topics’ for HE, evident in its new prominence in the Jisc’ digital capabilities framework. JISC, the UK’s expert body for digital technology and resources in Higher Education, Further Education and research defines wellbeing as:
“a term used to describe the impact of technologies and digital services on people’s mental, physical, social and emotional health.”
[The work below was first published on the Take 5 blog 20.09.2020]
How can digital competency frameworks offer a different approach to conceptualising student wellbeing?
Mirrored by the EU digital capabilities framework, digital wellbeing is now starting to influence policy at national and pan-European level. An analysis of these two frameworks was carried out by Biggins, Holley and Zezulkova (2017); their work identified ways in which more nuanced approaches to policy implementation would pay dividends in terms of wellbeing outcomes for students. Notably, their work suggests that human learning, underpinned by technological tools, needs to be partnered by a focus on lifelong learning and continuous professional development.
At institutional level, McDougall et al (2018) argue human-centred approaches prioritising staff and students’ immediate and lifelong wellbeing are key to success in developing policies for student wellbeing, rather than the mere use of digital tools. Digital wellbeing has taken on new dimensions and arguably greater importance in the adjustments being made to teaching and learning and to everyday life in response to Covid-19.
Numerous opportunities now exist for connecting, for socialising, for protesting, and for studying using online platforms; yet underneath there are challenges of the digital world for young people. These unfold in a myriad of ways: trolling and online-bullying; increased peer pressure for an instagram ‘perfect’ life and body image; and access and isolation.
Through our teaching and learning endeavours we know about inequalities in access to technology tools, and the health implications that studying on line can create, including the impact of social isolation on young people. We know there are increasing numbers of young people experiencing mental health challenges. An EU project has been set up to increase the capacity of lecturers and students to promote and practice digital wellbeing.
Google digital garage, for example, is a suite of wellbeing tools, with an image of a white, early middle-aged woman with flowing blonde hair, drinking, presumably a cup of herbal tea. The EU Digital Educators project has an image of a white, youthful man with a beard, smiling broadly as he engages with technology. A search of similar sites not only reveals a lack of diversity, they certainly don’t portray the stress and mental anguish staff, and our students, may experience studying in isolation.
The staff perspective
The shift or ‘tilt’ to online teaching and learning has disrupted our familiar practices; in physical, practical and emotional dimensions. Academic staff have been required to adjust the ways in which they facilitate learning, embedding synchronous and asynchronous approaches from new spaces and stretching the boundaries of what constitutes the university.
For some this tilt to online as a response to Covid-19 has been a positive experience, reducing commuting time and increasing a sense of well-being as staff feel safer at home and appreciate flexibility of working.
For others it has been challenging, particularly those who have been home-schooling their children, caring for sick family members or struggling with poor internet connections and out-of-date equipment.
A recent paper by Nordman et al (2020) sets out some key areas of the debate about Covid-19 adjustments in higher education and suggests strategies for managing this ‘tilt’. Issues of access and equality are identified by Heitz et al (2020), in the shift to remote learning. The first challenge is logistical, as educational establishments must ensure that students have access to basic technologies, wherever they are studying and regardless of their socio-economic status.
The student perspective
It has had a parallel impact on learners who have continued their studies in unfamiliar online learning spaces as programmes not originally designed for distance learning have been adapted as a response to Covid-19. Students have lost contact with each other and the physical resources universities provided to aid their academic and social interaction.
The National Union of Students (2020) conducted a survey during the COVID-19 pandemic which found that 20% of students struggled with access to online learning, with black, Asian and minority ethnic students, those from poorer backgrounds, care leavers, students with caring responsibilities and students with disabilities particularly impacted. 82% of students seek support from friends and family online, however only 18% are looking for self-help for wellbeing through digital apps.
What can we do?
Digital wellbeing frameworks offer insights into the wider, more holistic approaches to the student experience. However, they need to be designed for hybrid delivery, and to meet individual student needs. Pointing to self-help online guidance and apps, is, we argue, insufficient in itself, given that the most marginalised students already struggle to access robust internet connections.
The work by Heitz et al (2020) highlights the imperative for institutions to address students’ social, emotional and human needs as a precursor to offering effective online study. Developing and nurturing students’ sense of ‘belonging’ to their cohort, their disciplines and to the community at large requires adjustment of our previous on-campus practices. However, the principles remain the same – we need to:
Care for the whole person;
Model and enable safe, ethical and appropriate behaviour online and offline; and
Reassure our students that their wellbeing is at the heart of our practice, especially in new and potentially unfamiliar digital spaces.
Link to slideshare here:https://www.slideshare.net/slideshow/embed_code/key/AYAlcycYGnQlN3
Nordmann E, Horlin C, Hutchison J, Murray J-A, Robson L, Seery MK, and MacKay JRD. 2020. 10 simple rules for supporting a temporary online pivot in higher education. PsyArXiv Preprints. https://psyarxiv.com/qdh25
Dr Ben Goldsmith is Postdoctoral Researcher in Education at Bournemouth University, where he provides research support for the University’s submission to the Research Excellence Framework 2021. He is also a core tutor on BU’s innovative online Education Doctorate program. Prior to his appointment at Bournemouth, Ben worked for over twenty years in higher education in Australia. His research and publications cover a range of interests including approaches to education and creative practice, the uses of screen media in secondary and tertiary education, and media production infrastructures. https://staffprofiles.bournemouth.ac.uk/display/bgoldsmith
Debbie Holley is Professor of Learning Innovation at Bournemouth University. Her expertise lies with blending learning to motivate and engage students with their learning inside /outside the formal classroom, at a time and place of their own choosing. This encompasses the blend between learning inside the classroom and within professional practice placements, scaffolding informal learning in the workplace. She writes extensively the affordances of technologies such as Augmented Reality, Virtual/ Immersive Realities and Mobile Learning. https://staffprofiles.bournemouth.ac.uk/display/dholley
Anne Quinney is the academic lead for the pedagogic theme of ‘Assessment and Feedback’ at Bournemouth University, based in the Centre for Fusion Learning, Innovation and Excellence (previously the Centre for Excellence in Learning) and is responsible for policy innovations to promote student-centred and research-informed assessment and feedback strategies. A recent initiative has been the Assessment and Feedback Toolkit. Anne’s research interests include arts-based pedagogies and research approaches, including the use of photo-elicitation. https://staffprofiles.bournemouth.ac.uk/display/aquinney
Our earlier panel report…culture and resilience [first published on the NTF blog Nov 27 2020]
What do we usually do on Friday mornings during the pandemic? Routine work, think about the weekend, look at the weather forecast? This morning was rather different…I was invited to take part in a panel scoping out the DIGIFEST 2021 topics. I met the wonderful and inspiring Cameron, who is running the Jordanian pre-service teacher training service, as he joined us from Jordan, and Sarah, the awesome virtual reality educator from De Montfort University. Hosted by Jess Moore, the JISC senior digital content editor we were asked to discuss key questions around the Digifest ‘culture and resilience’ theme.
We started reflecting on the student experience, and all agreed that many colleagues had approached the whole of the ‘move online’ as a second best offering for students. There were lots of great examples where innovation moved ‘beyond’ the screen, embracing student as co-creators of content, of simulation and student centred, personalised best practice. Cameron shared insights from his project in Jordan, where committed teachers across the country were developing amazing resources, in cases for mixed ability pupil groups, with very limited digital infrastructure. Sarah talked about being compassionate, to each other and to our students, in a time of so much multi-tasking in the home, and we thought the WonkHE piece on how universities can’t fix everything (and that is OK) really hit the right tone at this point as staff and students all become exhausted by constant ‘Zoom’ ing.
The conversation moved to challenges in supporting student and staff mental health and wellbeing; and initiative like the Students Minds Mental Health Charter and the Suicide Reporting Toolkit for educators were seen as major ways forward. Digital wellbeing is really important, (see and we felt that this was not adequately reflected in current strategy). online had a dark underside, which unfold in a myriad of ways: trolling and online-bullying; increased peer pressure for an instagram ‘perfect’ life and body image; and access and isolation (read more on The best way of promoting health in HE? blogpost). Loneliness is a key factor for students, as the recent paper by Bu, Steptoe and Bancroft explains, putting young people at risk.
And for the future? We all wanted the leap forward in digital education in its fullest, with simulations, virtual opportunities and authentic learning opportunities for all to move forward, but with access and equal provision for all to continue, and not, once the crisis had past, to slip back in ‘same old’ – we think our students deserve the best of all Higher Education has to offer. We concluding thinking about ‘Universities of the Future and Education 4.0’ and what that may offer in terms of internationalisation, mobility and knowledge transfer, in physical space and time for many, but from their own homes for others.
Cameron Mirza (@cmirza1) Cameron is Chief of Party for IREX for USAID Pre-Service Teacher Education in Jordan.
Dr Sarah Jones: (@virtualsj) The Deputy Dean in the Faculty of Computing, Engineering and Media at De Montfort University. Her practice and research sits within emerging technologies and the development of immersive experiential films.
Debbie Holley: (@debbieholley1) Professor of Learning Innovation in the faculty of Health and Social Sciences, and expert in blending learning, student centred learning and informal learning.
Our host was Jess Moore (@Jisc) Senior Digital and Content Editor