IAD Learning and Teaching conference

Learning and Teaching conference, The University of Edinburgh (Institute of Academic Development)

20thJune 2018, John MacIntyre Conference Centre, Pollock Halls of Residence

Further details (and booking information) : https://www.ed.ac.uk/institute-academic-development/learning-teaching/cp...

The theme for the conference is Inspiring Learning and there are six subthemes:

  • Enhancing engagement and creating community within the University of Edinburgh. 
  • Inclusive curriculum  
  • Research-led teaching 
  • Digital education
  • Assessment and Feedback
  • Preparing graduates for the future


Presenters from the Centre for Research in Digital Education include:

Sian Bayne and Michael Gallagher 'The Near Future of Teaching at Edinburgh'
‘Futures thinking’ has become popular over recent years as a way for institutions to understand the implications of rapid social and technological change (Slaughter 1996). In its most interesting forms, futures work takes place across communities to co-develop creative and speculative responses to change (Facer and Sandford 2010).

At Edinburgh, the Near Future Teaching project has been working over the last year to apply this method to collaborative thinking about futures for teaching and learning in this university. The driving ethos of the project is that our digital education should be driven not by technology, but by the values of its students and staff.

The aim of the project is not to predict the future but to create it, and in doing so to understand how to plan for future investment in technology, people and culture, and the future curriculum.

We have worked with hundreds of students and staff to understand the values and visions they have for the future of teaching and learning across undergraduate, postgraduate, on-campus and distance modes; we have devised possible scenarios for the future of education, and have worked with a wide group of people to design responses to these.

Some of the project outputs can be seen on the web site http://www.nearfutureteaching.ed.ac.uk/

In this talk we will share project findings, and test our ideas for the future of digital education with workshop attendees. We will be looking for your active input on how, as a university, we might respond to our digital future.


Pete Evans 'Wider Themes in Digital Education –flexibility, structure and student agency'

Wider Themes in Digital Education is a new course on the MSc programme in Digital Education. The course is flexible and student-led being centred on a portfolio of self-contained learning activities. The course is structured around up to four small-scale learning projects that aggregate to the equivalence of 20 credits at SCQF Level 11 and can be taken outside the constraints of the semester timescales. The course provides a flexible framework for participants to engage with new and contested developments in theoretical concepts and practices in the fast moving domain of digital education. 

Students on the MSc in Digital Education are generally experienced mid-career professionals working in higher and further education, schools, corporate and third sector settings as academics, learning technologists, teachers, trainers and consultants. They are often involved in many significant and innovative projects, participate in and facilitate professional communities of interest and practice through which they engage in the generation and dissemination of new knowledge in the field of digital education. This course recognises and incentivises this 'good citizenship’ of our students by providing opportunities to gain academic credit through their interactions with emerging technologies and practices in digital education.

Students on the course produced a wide range of outputs including:  ‘traditional’ and web-essays and position papers on, for example, accessibility in digital education and the ethics of learning analytics; critical reviews of digital education resources, courses conferences and practices; open education resources on good academic practices; and analysis of specific technologies for teaching and learning. 

Yet, our assumptions about student capacities for setting personal learning goals, self-regulating and self-directing their learning, project management, and for transferring concepts and models from one course into their personal professional contexts have, at times, all been challenged. This Pecha Kucha will present my reflections as Course Organiser on the Wider Themes in Digital Education course and the implications for supporting students as active, independent, autonomous and collaborative learners. 


Tim Fawns and Clara O'Shea 'Product, process or practices? Distributed learning and assessment in digital education'

Assessment methods in higher education can isolate students from the people and many of the resources they have interacted with in the process of learning. We argue that ideals of reliability and standardisation privilege internal, individual and abstract forms of knowledge at the expense of contextualised, collective and adaptive practices. If we accept that assessment is an important driver of learning, and that graduates will need to be effective users of social and material resources in the workplace, then it follows that assessments in which students are able to make use of available resources may be more appropriate in relation to future employment. This is particularly important in light of an increasing requirement for rapid adaptation to technological change.

In this paper, we draw on ideas from distributed cognition, in which processes of thinking are shared across people, tools and objects, to question traditional higher education assessment practices. We draw on experiences of our students on the MSc Clinical Education and the MSc Digital Education to question established definitions of knowledge, independence, self-regulation and autonomy. We argue that a requirement, within assessment, to reduce dependency on other people and external resources could be a barrier to learning by reducing opportunities to develop effective practices and to evaluate and, therefore, motivate, the adaptive capacity to integrate into complex social and technological environments. In conclusion, we call for the development of assessments in which students are not only allowed but encouraged to make effective use of people, technology, environments and artefacts in ways that test both understanding and the ability to operate effectively within collaborative, distributed systems.


Jeremy Knox 'Teaching Research Methods at Scale: Connecting accredited University provision and open MOOC learning'

This presentation will discuss the design and delivery of a recent Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) entitled ‘Introduction to Social Research Methods’ (known as ‘SOCRMx’). Offered on the edX platform, this pioneering design combined an accredited University of Edinburgh online Masters course with the public-facing format of a MOOC, thus demonstrating innovative ways of approaching distance learning at scale. During the academic year 2017/18, 31 students from the University’s MSc in Digital Education programme participated in the MOOC as a formal part of a 20-credit course on social science research methods. Over 1,250 members of the public also participated, creating a vibrant and inspiring community of international learners, both within the University and beyond. This presentation will highlight the key design aspects of the SOCRMx MOOC intended to accommodate the different motivations and interests of a broad range of learners: enrolled students seeking formal accreditation as part of the MSc in Digital Education; University students from other programmes and schools interested in social science research methods to support their existing learning; students not enrolled at the University looking for additional materials to those provided by their current institution; educators and teachers from the University and beyond interested in finding out how MOOCs are taught; and members of the public interested in life-long learning. This diversity of student population is a significant challenge for the ‘open’ format of the MOOC, and the future vision of distance learning at scale. The student-centred SOCRMx MOOC design provided a choice of routes through the course materials, video contributions from a range of academics across the University, formative quiz assessments, and a final peer assessment exercise. The talk will conclude with an overview of the data analytics deriving from two instances of the course, as well as future recommendations for approaching distance learning at scale.


Jen Ross, Amani Bell, Jen Scott Curwood 'Assessment in a digital age: Rethinking multimodal artefacts in higher education' 
Digital assignments are increasingly part of the landscape of higher education, with educators in many disciplines seeking to scaffold students’ competence and engagement with social, visual, interactive, and multimodal information spaces outside formal education into critical and creative capacities to work with and generate knowledge in formal settings. However, assessment rubrics for such assignments have not always kept pace: teachers may be consciously or unconsciously working with “a paradigm of assessment rooted in a print-based theoretic culture” (Curwood, 2012, p. 232). Consequently, technical and compositional assessment criteria do not always address the richness and complexity of multimodal work. This presentation emerges from work in progress from a collaborative pilot project between members of the Centre for Research into Learning and Innovation (The University of Sydney, Australia) and the Centre for Research in Digital Education (University of Edinburgh, UK). The aim of the research is to develop new insights into the nature of digital assignments and methodologies for their design and assessment, drawing on theories of place-based learning, mobility, and multimodality. This is particularly relevant at a time when universities are rethinking teaching and learning by offering new opportunities for students to collaborate, innovate with technologies, and represent their disciplinary knowledge. In this presentation, Jen will share and theorise findings from interviews with students and tutors as well as analysis of multimodal assignments in an undergraduate class at the University of Sydney, and use them to spark discussion of implications for this work at the University of Edinburgh.

Curwood, J.S. (2012). Cultural shifts, multimodal representations, and assessment practices: A case study.  E-Learning and Digital Media, 9(2), 232-244.


Anna Wood, Christine Sinclair, Jessie Paterson, Paul Anderson, Hamish Macleod 'What question? Enabling dialogue between students and their teachers'

Conversations between academics and students play a central role in successful teaching and learning in higher education and one important aspect of these dialogues is the questions that trigger them. However, at least anecdotally, it is common for both students and teachers to experience dialogues that seem to be at cross-purposes, are frustrating or in some way difficult. 

Our PTAS funded project set out to examine academics’ and students’ experiences of questions and of dialogues in academic settings.   We conducted semi-structured interviews with 14 participants (7 student and 7 teachers) across 3 schools: Education, Vet School and Informatics, and used thematic analysis to determine key themes for each group. 

These themes included: a) The reasons why students are reluctant to ask questions – such as worries about losing face and fear of others’ negative reactions b) worries about when and where it is acceptable to ask questions c) concerns about being listened to by teachers and negotiating the student/teacher relationship and d) communication challenges – for both home and non-UK students.

We use these findings to suggest practical strategies that can support both students and academics to have more productive conversations.

In keeping with our emphasis on dialogue, we propose to present this work as a 30 minute talk/discussion. We will give a short introduction to the project and explain our key findings. Following this there will then be an opportunity for the audience to respond to our findings by sharing their experiences of dialogues with students and their strategies for overcoming any difficulties. Similarities (and differences) to our findings will then be discussed. 


Phil Sheail and Stuart Nicol, with Noreen Dunnett 'HELP PLZ: Navigating Minecraft as a digital education space for postgraduate students'

This paper draws on the experience of the authors in working with postgraduate students in Minecraft, the highly successful ‘building block’ gaming environment, as part of a fully online Masters programme in Digital Education. In the context of the recent literature on Minecraft in education, and the programme team’s previous work in the virtual world Second Life, we consider the opportunities and challenges of working with Minecraft as a digital learning and teaching space for postgraduate students. We present examples of student explorations, activities and responses to Minecraft over four course instances (2016-18). The course design incorporates a two-week intensive block of student engagement with Minecraft in ‘creative mode’, during which students are asked to explore Minecraft as a potential education space with a focus on building, design, creativity and collaboration. For fully online students who may never meet in person, we propose that Minecraft also has the potential to become a low-stakes virtual meeting and social space, albeit one which does not conform to the usual conventions of an academic environment.

Working with emerging themes of public, community and temporary digital spaces, this paper highlights some of the highs and lows of the technical and organisational challenges of learning and teaching in a ‘randomly generated world’ without a formal ‘supplier’ partnership. We show that, despite its solid visual block architecture, Minecraft also presents a fragile and temporary space which, while providing highly creative opportunities, is often beyond the control of the student, teacher and institution. We conclude this paper with some recommendations for teachers and technologists working with students in digital education spaces which may be temporary, unstable and unpredictable.



Michael Gallagher and James Lamb 'Exit the classroom: digital, mobile teaching and learning'

'Our poster presentation invites colleagues working across the disciplines to consider how digital, mobile learning can provide valuable and exciting approaches for teaching and learning. At a time when smartphone devices and networked content are increasingly dominant in a global context, and strategic importance is attached to blended and online education, we make the case for teaching and learning that takes place beyond the conventional spaces of classroom and campus. 

We make this argument by describing learning events that combined digital pedagogy with mobile technologies as we enacted seminars, conference contributions and research activities on the streets of London (January 2015), Amsterdam (June 2016), Edinburgh (November 2016) and Bremen (September 2017). Through this trajectory of events we have developed a model for distributed learning where students and tutors across campuses and continents can critically and imaginatively engage with their surroundings and with each other, tailored to the particular subject interests of the assembled (or non-assembled) group.

All of these activities were driven by a desire for teaching and learning that could be adopted and adapted to a range of educational contexts. To this end, the events we describe draw principally on critical work in mobile learning (e.g. De Souza e Silva & Frith 2013), digital education (e.g. Bayne 2014) and multimodality (e.g. Kress & Van Leeuwen 2001), all of which resonate across the disciplines, and out into the street. 

Bayne, S. (2014). What's the matter with ‘technology-enhanced learning’? Learning, Media and Technology, 40(1), 5-20. doi:10.1080/17439884.2014.915851

De Souza e Silva, A., & Frith, J. (2013). Re-narrating the city through the presentation of location. The Mobile Story: Narrative Practices with Locative Technologies, London, NY: Routledge.

Kress G and Van Leeuwen T (2001) Multimodal Discourse: The Modes and Media of Contemporary Communication. London: Arnold.'


Date of Event 
20 Jun 2018
Event Leader 
John MacIntyre Conference Centre, Pollock Halls of Residence
Research Area 
Children & Technology
Data Society
Digital Cultures
Event type