Aug 082016

Since 2007, Dr Sophy Smith (DMU Teacher Fellow, 2015 and HEA Senior Teacher Fellow, 2015) has been taking a fresh approach to assessing students on the MA/MSc Creative Technologies course at DMU.

In essence, Sophy and the team provide an open choice to the students with regard to what they study, how they are assessed and the format that they express themselves in.

At the beginning of the Major Project module, the students will have a conversation with Sophy and they will firstly decide whether they will go for an MA or an MSc in Creative Technologies. Then, based on the student’s aspirations regarding employability a set of learning objectives and the assessment format will be agreed.

The module is 15 weeks in total with 2 hours per week being delivered by Sophy and the other members of the teaching team. There are also workshops and seminars and a project is started around half way through.

The only rigid assessment component is that the students are required to provide a critical commentary regarding their project however the format of this component is also negotiable. Students do often opt to provide a written critical commentary but some students have also opted to provide a collection of blog posts, a film or any other media.

Sophy began taking this approach on two modules in 2007 but this negotiated approach to assessment is now the norm on all of the course specific modules that make up the MA/MSc Creative Technologies.

As part of the course there are shared modules too and students do not have the choice when taking these modules, only MA/MSc specific modules provide the opportunity to follow a tailored path for assessment.

One example of this flexible approach to assessment includes a student who knew that he wanted to work in the games industry producing Machinima style movies and therefore the module was tailored toward this goal for this student and his project title and assessment mechanism was also focused on this goal.

Linking the assessment to the student’s employability aspirations in this way ensures that students build a body of work throughout the life of the course to show prospective employees and this triangulated approach (linking learning objectives to employability goals and enabling a preferred expression format) is believed to be linked to the high employment rates that the graduates of this course demonstrate.

This tailored model also supports the principles of Universal Design for Learning (UDL) in that from the beginning the students are engaging in ways that suit them as individuals and they will be assessed in a manner that plays to their strengths.

Students also feel as though they own their learning experience on this course which helps them to feel motivated and to achieve.

When marking, the learning objectives that were agreed at the beginning of the course are made known to the marker and second marker and the student work is marked against these; alongside general marking criteria in line with PG regulations.

The negotiated learning objectives do align with the learning outcomes on each module to ensure parity and quality standards are upheld and Sophy believes that the success of this approach is rooted in the clarity of the learning objectives.

Typically, the MA/MSc Creative Technologies will attract around 15 students per year and the flexible approach to assessment is now standard across all course specific modules on this course.

There is a new MA Digital Arts that is coming on stream in 2016/17 and this good practice has been carried over to the new course where students will again be able to negotiate their learning objectives and assessment style from the beginning based on their employment related goals.

Thank you to Dr Sophy Smith, Reader in Creative Technologies at the Institute of Creative Technologies, DMU for enabling this blog post.


Ian Pettit.

Apr 122016

The HEA Arts & Humanities conference took place last month in sunny Brighton: there were quite a few interesting ELT-related sessions at the conference which are outlined below plus links to further information.

Jonathan Worth, Newcastle University Open Lab: Synthesising approaches to openness

Excellent keynote by Jonathan Worth from Newcastle University Open Lab: he talked about not just ‘Teaching with‘ the digital, but ‘teaching of the digital.’  Jonathan discussed his #Phonar global photography classes, Phonar Nation, an international initiative enabling young people to take part in their own representation as well as much, much more: hugely inspiring and thought-provoking.  You can read more about his work on using the affordances of social media in teaching here.

Christopher Wiley, University of Surrey: How to use electronic voting systems creatively in arts & humanities teaching

Using electronic voting systems in the context of Dance, Drama and Music to enhance critical engagement.  1.2 abstract here – his presentation isn’t available but you can read more about Christopher’s work, including his role as a Turning Technologies Distinguished Educator here.

Christopher Hall, Sheffield Hallam University: Infographics as module guides (Poster Presentation)

Using infographics to capture an entire module guide on one page – used as a front page in Blackboard and as hard copy.  You can read the poster presentation abstract here.

Infographics as Module Guides

Christopher Hall’s poster showing a module guide presented as an infographic

Sarah Crowson & Simon Denison, Hereford College of Arts: How to build a less formal online learning space

Students felt more ownership of the informal online learning space created in WordPress, and engaged more with this space compared to the the official VLE.  12.7 abstract here and you can read in more detail about Sarah and Simon’s action research project here.

Alexis Taylor, University of Northampton and Phil Perry, University of Coventry:#CovNorth
16.8 abstract here and you can see at #CovNorth the way that students preferred email to Twitter for professional communication.  My favourite quote of the conference came from this presentation: ‘Twitter is for old people’ according to these students at least.

More on the conference website:

Julia Reeve

Nov 102014

In my experience as a learning technologist in HE there can sometimes be a misconception (and at times assumption) on the part of the teacher that the use of eLearning should inevitably, or to a significant extent at least lead to a more efficient, less labour-intensive work flow. At times, having demonstrated a particular eLearning intervention the question that followed has been something along the lines of “but this means more work for me! I thought eLearning was about making things more efficient?”

This is perhaps an understandable misconception as the implementation of eLearning by definition involves the use of electronic/computer-based technology, generally referred to as IT (or ICT). IT has historically been developed and implemented, to a lesser or greater extent as a labour-saving intervention, to make certain tasks less labour-intensive. Ergo: introducing IT into a particular teaching practice (i.e. eLearning) should ultimately result in less work for the teacher.

But at its core – eLearning is not about creating less work for the teacher – it’s about enhancing teaching and learning.

This is not to say that there aren’t times when the introduction of technology into teaching and learning can potentially, and does indeed lead to a more efficient workflow. But in some of these cases it’s not necessarily about eLearning, what is key here is that the student learning experience is not being enhanced in any significant way. For example, shifting from marking hard copies of essays to marking electronically online (which can be classed as an eLearning intervention) may result in a reduction in time taken to mark the work. But there may be no fundamental enhancing of learning achieved because of this change in practice. One could perhaps argue that if research has shown that students are more likely to read the feedback given to them via electronic marking and feedback than they are with hard copies, then I may have not chosen the best example here – but I hope you can still see my point. Indeed, there can be instances where eLearning does both – enhance teaching and learning and save labour. E.g. implementing eLearning that facilitates more autonomous/independent learning (peer and collaborative learning).

Nevertheless, to reiterate – as its point of departure, eLearning is about enhancing teaching and learning.

Given that there may well be some cans of worms left significantly ajar in what I’ve touched on above. I should perhaps contextualize this via the lens of certain current issues. Given what appears to be a general ‘leaning’ of the HE labour force over recent years (the rounds of voluntary and compulsory severance across the HE sector), one can perhaps understand how anything labour saving would rate high on the priorities of what may be an over-stretched teaching labour force; and given that, in my experience the implementation of eLearning can in some cases lead to an increase in workload, the desire on the part of the teacher to introduce eLearning that isn’t fundamentally labour saving will be diminished. The question, “will this result in more work for me?” may become more prevalent in direct relationship to the labour force ‘over-stretching’ and as a result the desire to engage in the implementation of eLearning will be diminished. Indeed, were we to arrive at a large-scale ‘work to rule’ situation with HE – could we see the ongoing innovation, development and implementation of eLearning across the curriculum becoming an untenable proposition, as teaching staff loading for eLearning does not realistically reflect the investment of time required?

So on the one hand it is important that there is an understanding on the part of teachers as to what eLearning is fundamentally about – Enhancing Learning through Technology (ELT) – and not necessarily labour saving in the first instance. But also an understanding on the part of learning technologists who have a role in catalyzing and driving the implementation of ELT, that the current working environment might lead to a less accommodating attitude to eLearning implementations in direct correlation to the extra time required to implement them.

By Rob Weale

Apr 292014

A joint venture with POD and UNISON- 19.05.14 to 23.05.14 

CELT activities –  Monday 19th May and Friday 23rd May  between 12.30pm to 2.30pm in Eric Wood 1.13 

This two-hour slot will contain three bite-sized exhibition style activities that will repeat throughout the two hours: 

  1. How to create audio and visual feedback using screencast software.
  2. Using word 2010 to assist navigation of a PDF.
  3. How to set-up your own website/blog in the DMU Commons.
  • (Each activity is likely to last around 15 -20 minutes) 

How to create audio and visual feedback using screencast software – overview

  • In the hands on session you will create feedback videos using screen capture software. This technique creates feedback where students hear the tutor’s voice and inflection, which adds meaning, significance and enhances students learning of the feedback. 
  • You will learn how to: mark an electronically submitted assignment; save it as video file; and upload it to Blackboard. Where your students can download it as a podcast.

Using word 2010 to assist navigation of a PDF – overview

  • Lengthy PDF documents within Blackboard are often left unread by students. By applying Word2010 tools to that document you can enhance the PDF making it easy to navigate and subtract the information required. Applying this to topics, or highlight significant detail, creates an engaging and inclusive PDF for the different learners in your cohort.
  • Using a typical handbook the hands on session will teach you how to: create a template of headings and subheadings; applying them to the document; and save as a PDF.

How to set-up your own website/blog in the DMU Commons – overview 

  • DMU Commons is based on the WordPress platform. It is used by staff and students across DMU to create a blogging platform, web space, and/or social network tool; linking everyone into one online community.
  • This session will demonstrate and provide you with an understanding on the basics of WordPress. Provide a hands on activity that will allow you to: create a DMU commons account; set up and build a website/blog; and how to maintain the site.
Mar 172014

JISC Digital Festival – Birmingham ICC March 11th & 12th 2014

Two days of – interesting conversations, engaging presentations, freebies, networking overload, tea (sooo much tea), familiar faces, new faces, new connections, energized ideas.

The JISC Digital Festival was packed full of interesting stuff about Enhancing Learning through Technology. It had things that would appeal to IT technicians, librarians, learning technologists, teachers, researchers and academics – which meant some fascinating discussions were taking place that weaved in, out, through and around a multiverse of digital practices in education.

What follows is an overview of some of the highlights of the festival as I experienced it – with a focus on the sessions that I attended.

Opening Keynote

Featured a talk from Diana Oblinger – who explored what education might be like if we used the best that technology has to offer.

Points of note:
The notion that higher order learning comes from complex challenges – and these can be digitally delivered through activities such as gamification and scenario-based approaches

There is a growing need (and perhaps an expectation from students) for a more ‘personalised’ and ‘individualised’ learning experience – for example, developing individualized learning pathways, and using automated ‘early warning’ systems to alert students if they are ‘falling behind’, why they are falling behind, and how to rectify this.

An interesting idea was presented concerning competency-based models of learning – which has ramifications for the ‘employability’ agenda. Wherein students, alongside their degree/course/field specific learning could develop a competency portfolio that was a mechanism for demonstrating the ‘transferrable’ skills that they were gaining.

Day 1 – Session highlights

Designing strategically aligned digital credentialing systems with open badges to engage and meet the needs of digital learners

This session concerned the development and use of open badges. It offered some introductory information about the digital badging concept and then proceeded to workshop the production of a digital badge using a ‘new’ JISC Open Badge design sheet (released date – sometime in March 2014) that assists in the initial design process of developing a Badge-based digital credentialing system.

Flipped classroom, or just flippin' technology? Where are we now with technology, student experience and organisational change?

The content of this session was underpinned by the Changing the Learning Landscape project.

Key topics of interest were:

To be aware of ‘ red herrings’ and ‘bandwagons’ – the recent ‘excitement’ over MOOCS was given as an example of this. To be wary of reacting to flavor of the month technologies, or competitive forces such as "our competitors have just installed technology X, so we must have it in order to keep up with them". One way of avoiding such red herrings is to critically assess how the ‘tech’ can be effectively embedded in the curriculum – 'adding value' to the student learning experience.

There was also an interesting discussion around how VLE’s in many institutions appear to be used ‘for the most part’ as information repositories – rather than as resources for structuring learning materials in a ‘curriculum’ sensitive manner.

Promoting feedback dialogue using technology: why, how and lessons learned

This session, which was based on research looking at promoting feedback dialogue, discussed how in many cases feedback to students from their teachers was monologic – that is one-way from tutor to student, and that students may not be adequately 'engaging' with feedback in a manner which informs their acdemic practice. It was argued that a more effective feedback model is dialogic (where there is a two-way ‘dialogue’ between tutor and student). Part of this dialogue is also about encouraging the student to engage in deeper reflection on the feedback given to them.

Two dialogic feedback models were presented:

The university as a hackerspace: Can interventions in teaching and learning drive university strategy?

In this session Joss Winn gave an overview of the Student as Producer concept that has been adopted at Lincoln as a core component of the Undergraduate Teaching and Learning Strategy.

He then went on to introduce the concept of the university as a Hackerspace – and outlined this vision through his ‘experiment’ in creating a cross-university Masters by research based on Hackerspace principles. Joss discussed some interesting ideas around taking an anti-disciplinary approach, in which persons from all disciplines are welcome but the disciplines themselves are not ‘modularised’ or 'partitioned' – it is an open and democratic space. For me it was refreshing and exciting to see such experimental spirit being openly accommodated by a HE institution in the development of a new ‘course?’… And to see that there are still spaces within HE where ‘radical approaches’ are being allowed to ‘do their thing’…as it were.

Day 2 – Session highlights

Understanding students' expectations and experiences of the digital environment

This discussion/workshop session took its point of departure from Phase 1 of the Digital Student Project, which conducted a review into the student experience, and expectations of the digital environment at university.

One of the core themes concerned how we (that is educators and learning technologists) in HE can/should/must help shape the students ‘transformational’ use of digital technology. In other words – students may have digital ‘know how’ but they don’t necessarily know how this applies to their academic practice.

It was noted that there can be an imbalance between student expectations of what the digital environment at university will encompass and their actual ‘digital needs’ with respect to supporting and enhancing their academic practice and their learning. The challenge of this scenario is in responding to what students want based on their experiences outside of University, balanced against what they need to succeed at university and in the digital world beyond.

The workshop section used an interesting scenario-based approach to gather data, having us imagine the university of 2020, and speculating in what ways an institution might fail to reach this balance between expectation and needs; and conversely might succeed in reaching this balance.

Whatever happened to the MOOC?

This session took the MOOC concept as the starting point for a much broader discussion about Open Education, retaining the ‘networked learning’ aspect of the MOOC space and applying this concept more broadly. With seven speakers the tempo was quick fire, but not frantic – indeed there was a refreshing ‘to the point’ succinctness in the presentations.

Key bits:

It’s not about the ‘content’; it’s about enabling learners to learn in a networked world

There is a paradigm shift in open learning from a ‘one to many’ model to a ‘many to many’ model

This many to many model lead to some interesting chat around how, in such community and networked open learning spaces the participants are at times teaching the teachers through what they contribute, or the mechanisms by which they contribute content, or how they organize content in a digitally facilitated manner.

Was great to see my one time colleague Viv Rolfe presenting at this session, still strenuously advocating Open Education.

Digital storytelling for public engagement

This presentation covered with the basic concepts of digital storytelling – comparing and contrasting two particular digital stories and the approaches used, and offering advice concerning best practice in the creation of digital stories.

What I found particularly interesting was how an economy of content (2 mins of spoken words accompanied by a series of still images) could be an effective communicator of ‘a message’. But also that in such economy of content and the basic technical knowledge required to create the digital story, the production of such a resource was not ‘onerous’.  I.e. the value of the output seemed to be significantly more than the effort required to create the output.

Final keynote – Preparing new generations for the digital future – how the world (and business) will change over the next 20 years

Futurologist – Ray Hammond ruminated on the six major trends that he believes will shape society and business life over the next two decades and how this relates to education – through the lens of digtial technology.

He made some intriguing suggestions concerning the difficulties in thinking about how we might proactively shape the future in relation to emerging and exponentially advancing technologies when we do not have an effective ‘language’ to describe, define and ruminate on the potentials of the new technologies – i.e. the pace of development/evolution of language is not keeping up with the pace of technological change. He used the example of the term ‘horseless carriage’ which used to be used to signify a 'car', and suggested that the terms ‘mobile phone’ or ‘smart phone’ were at the same historical point of linguistic development as the term ‘horseless carriage’. Such 'newly emerged' words/terms and what they signify are inadequate in articulating the potentials of what they are defining.

His ruminations also brought home some stark ‘possibilities’ about the significant and radical changes to the ‘way things are’, based on the rapid advance of technology in relation to key global trends, that may well be ‘just around the corner’. And the fundamental role that education and those involved in education will have to play in preparing our learners to effectively engage with a rapidly and radically changing future.

Overall, for me, the conference was a great success. I came away from it with a renewed vigour to continue to do my part in advancing the use of technology for enhancing teaching and learning.

Check out the Digital Dream Wall that gradually emerged from a blank white canvas over the 2 days.


(artwork thanks to the artists at

I think this is an apt visual representation of what the conference achieved. Facilitating not only a sharing of thoughts, ideas, concerns, experiences, abilities, and techniques. But providing the space in which new networks of ongoing communication and collaboration are established – through which, all of these things can begin to ‘synthesize’ into a strong and progressive lattice of shared understanding, knowledge and ability that will continue to have a positive impact on all learning sectors, as we continue our digital journey.

I look forward to what JISC DigiFest 2015 has to offer.

Posted by Rob Weale

Aug 212013

I recently took delivery of a new piece of technology from the IT department here at DMU. It’s a telephone… or is it?

Last year DMU started the roll-out of Microsoft Lync to all of its staff members; the vision is that staff will make use of the software to video conference with each other, we will make use of Voice Over IP and we can also manage our time and meetings more effectively due to the integration with Outlook.

From a business justification perspective, all of the points above stand up by way of helping us to be more efficient and save costs but it is the other benefit that this project has ‘accidentally’ delivered that I want to talk about here.

The Centre for Enhancing Learning through Technology (CELT) works independently from the IT support department as part of the Library and Learning Services Directorate at DMU. However projects that the IT team delivers will often have a knock-on effect on CELT’s work and can sometimes deliver unexpected teaching, learning and assessment related benefits.

In order to take full advantage of MS Lync, the IT team has equipped each staff member with a new telephone – I was quite excited to take delivery of mine as my previous device would have been more at home in a museum than on my desk but aside the obvious benefits of clearer sound, being notified when I had missed a call and being able to see when my next meeting is scheduled on the telephone’s screen I also noticed that there are now some new cables on my desk.

The cable I’m really excited about (if I can get excited about a piece of black wire) is the USB cable that now plugs into my PC and the new ‘phone.

This cable not only facilitates the communication between the MS Lync desktop application and the telephone but my PC also now ‘sees’ the new telephone and its discreet devices as devices that the PC can access, control and interface with.

And here’s the point – by providing each staff member with a new telephone and the USB interface, the IT department has given everyone a good quality microphone and speaker that their computer can see and use.

Over the last couple of years, as one of the Enhancing Learning through Technology Project Officers at DMU, I have worked with a number of staff in areas such as creating screencast based resources, providing audio or audio/visual feedback and using screencast technology to provide resources and feedback using a variety of media for Distance Learners and attending students.

One area that has always been a sticking point is the provision of an appropriate microphone and speaker(s) to enable a teaching team to adopt such practice en masse.

Traditionally, I have always advised staff members to look for a mid-range wireless USB headset with microphone as this can double up as a device to be used in the office for recording audio feedback or if staff wish to record their session then the wireless USB headset can also be worn whilst teaching in order to capture audio as part of a lecture capture solution without having to loan or purchase a separate lapel mic’. However, such headsets can cost around £50 each and this cost can be prohibitive.

I have also come across instances whereby teaching staff will be in possession of a microphone but it will be an older 3.5mm jack plug style microphone. This would be ok when maybe using the Windows sound recorder to produce audio files but when interfacing with software such as Expression for the production of screencast type content, a USB microphone is required as in my experience Expression does not interface with more traditional equipment plugged into a jack plug and other applications struggle to pick up the older style microphones at a decent volume (even with a bit of tweaking of the levels).

So this brings me back to my nice new shiny telephone and the fact that when it was first plugged into my work PC it installed a few drivers, talked to MS Lync and did everything that the IT team expected it to; but now, when I open the ‘recording devices’ menu on my PC I see I have a new USB microphone available to use that Expression can also see (or is that hear) as well as other software such as Panopto and the Windows sound recorder.

The ‘phone actually has two microphones, the one in the handset and the one that is built into the body for use in loud-speaker mode, it doesn’t matter which I use when using the ‘phone to record audio on my PC, both deliver very good quality audio and the PC doesn’t need to switch between the handset and loud-speaker microphone which makes using the telephone as a USB microphone really easy – it’s just the same as plugging a USB microphone into a computer and talking to it.

The provision of these telephones at DMU has opened up a lot of potential for staff wanting to experiment with audio and audio/visual resources and feedback as everyone now has a good quality microphone on their desk that will talk to software that is free to use or other centrally supported software and they also have a speaker through which recorded content can be played for checking prior to uploading to the VLE, a real bonus for a project that was focused solely on providing a more corporate style communication tool for staff.

One member of academic staff at DMU is ahead of the game in this respect as his location was equipped early in the MS Lync project. Cormac Norton, School of Nursing, Faculty of Health and Life Sciences has already adopted the use of his new telephone as a USB microphone to add voice to PowerPoint slides – a case study that looks at Cormac’s technique in detail can be accessed on the CELT Hub here.

This experience also highlights the need for people such as myself, who support the use of technology from a teaching, learning and assessment perspective to be aware of the technology that is centrally provided and how technology that might not have been designed or implemented with teaching, learning and assessment in mind can be exploited in order to make a difference.

I’m sure if we all looked hard enough we’d be able to squeeze just a bit more out of the kit that we are supplied to work with every day.

Ian Pettit.

Feb 282013

Transdisciplinary DMU Social Media

Explorers of all things Social Media


The Social Media Group meets in the transdisciplinary common room. The focus of the group is to share practices of social media used for learning and teaching and too evaluate how effective they are. During the forthcoming weeks there will be dissemination on different social media programmes; how they are used; and their effect on learning and student experience.

To join the group and find out more information:

Select this link to join on Google groups

Or email:- Steve Mackenzie or Thom Corah at DMU