Exploring Open Educational Resources

Yesterday I ran a workshop about OERs at Van Mildert College, which is part of the University’s Centre for Academic and Researcher Development series.

Thanks to Dr Bex Lewis, It was captured via storify, making this post very easy to write :-) For people who like to start at the beginning, you should navigate to the end of the story and view the tweets in reverse order!

I will be uploading the slides to SlideShare shortly!

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Students as Partners: HEA workshop

On Wednesday last week I attended the HEA event in York looking at students as partners.

The event aimed to look at various aspects of engaging and engaging with students regarding determining and inputting into their own learning experiences.


Mike’s keynote set a challenging tone for the rest of the day, prompting some real reflection on the extent to which we as individuals, professionals and institutions truly engage with students. Moving from a transactional response of “You said, We did’ to an ongoing and meaningful dialogue regarding the experience of learning and being part of the co-creation of knowledge with students. Mike also cited Mick Healey’s work cited as an example of universities being research led and pointed out that students have an important part to play in this process.

Abbi Flint echoed the challenging tone established by Mike and prompted a highly interactive workshop putting our practice of student participation, engagement and participation further under scrutiny. She was able to provide more details of the partnership learning communities and prompted us to reflect on to what extent the projects we as participants adhered to the principles of true student engagement.

partnership learning communities

Partnership Learning Communities: A conceptual model for students as partners in learning and teaching in higher education (Healey, Flint and Harrington 2014)

Abbi also presented the framework for student partnerships and suggested that locating activities according to the model was a useful exercise in determining, who, how and in what  we involved our students.

One interesting point to note from Abbi’s talk was the idea of empowerment. The group in which I had a smaller discussion, had the interesting idea the principles of student engagement were empowering for staff as well as providing opportunities to question and clarify the student voice. The ideas and principles of student partnerships didn’t necessarily mean a complete doing away with the distinction in roles between staff and students but it did mean that education wasn’t something ‘done to’ students. There was an interesting exercise that Abbi started off her session with, asking us to place ourselves along a line according to our beliefs regarding the extent appropriateness of students as partners in various scenarios. One being that student should have a say in determining their learning within modules and two being that both partners were equal. An interesting discussion then occurred from contrasting views provided by opposite sides of the room that covered professional standards and student expectations of education.

Over lunch I was able to contrast experiences of student involved projects with the other participants. Some others were engaging in such projects each bearing a different terminology and at times contrasting approach; from partners, co-producers, voice all were represented- some fully engaged and some still dipping a tentative toe in the water.

One thing that did strike me and in which I was slightly disappointed was a lack of student presence and voice at the even itself organised by the HEA. If there was a presence it was a low profile and for me did not demonstrate any active partnerships with students. I felt that the conversation was at times rather one-sided, potentially idealistic and perhaps the absence of students demonstrated some of the difficulties of undertaking student led projects (scheduling, inclusion, areas of involvement and potentially exclusion). The ethos behind student partnerships and engagement is one that is worthy, beneficial and with evolving eduction environments, agendas and requirements it strikes me as necessary. However I’m concerned that its something that we are discussing at length agreeing is a great idea in principle but doing little about.

Whilst some quotes presented by the facilitators did illustrate the benefits reported by students in undertaking student partnerships I felt the message would have been more convincing if they had been invited to share in the day and discussions. I still found the day incredibly useful but felt that the lack of student involvement did somewhat undermine the message that was trying to be conveyed.

Putting my concerns aside, the final session of the day was delivered by Jenni Carr, who explored the idea of students as researchers. Jenni’s session was interesting and involved participation and exploration of current practices in involving students in research as partners. The aim of the strand was to highlight the benefits both to staff and students of involving students in the research process and how this enhances the learning experience for students. There were some fantastic ideas shared by other participants including asking students to create a fully economic costed research proposal in their second year to undertake in their third year. The idea of this was to prepare students to become researchers and expose them to the realities of undertaking real world problems. This proposal is created by interacting with staff, both technical and academic and administrative and includes gaining ethical clearance. Other ideas looked at developing ‘Wicked’ problems for students based upon a real world scenario. The session was useful in highlighting some of the problems and issues that have been encountered by institutions undertaking this approach such as ethical clearance problems, health and safety and the distinction between the staff role in research and the student role in research. Ultimately though the session aimed at moving the view of teaching and learning towards a research orientated and based experience in which knowledge is constructed, re-imagined and discovered collaboratively between staff and students as a learning experience for all.

To illustrate this point Jenni presented a fantastic quote from Freire (1986) at the start of the session with which I’ll finish this blog post. The quote from Pedagogy of the Oppressed for me underlined the importance of and link between learning, teaching and research and how including students and their viewpoints, input and experience, in this process can be beneficial for all.

“For apart from inquiry, apart from the praxis individuals cannot be truly human. Knowledge only emerges through invention and reinvention, through the restless, impatient, continuing, hopeful inquiry human beings pursue in the world, with the world and with each other.”

Freire, P. (1968) Pedagogy of the Oppressed, Continuous Press, New York



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DL forum – Thanks!

Thanks to everyone who attended the distance learning forum today. We had great representation from everyone across the departments and some great discussion about existing practices, ideas for development and suggestions on how best to provide support.

We’re currently in the process of writing up the notes from this event and will have these ready for circulation shortly!

A picture of Distance Learning

A picture of Durham Distance Learning

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Distance Learning: Have your say

We’re holding what we’re terming a ‘Distance Learning Forum‘ on the 6th of November as a staff development event.

online learning

The aim of the event is to undertake a fact finding mission about distance learning as well as promoting the practice of those already undertaking distance learning activities. What we’d really like from the event is a clearer picture of what staff are thinking about distance learning, perhaps are already doing and explore  their ideas of what they’d like to do in the future. We’re also inviting student representation along to provide the voice of our online learners.

So if you’re a member of Durham University (sorry this one’s internal only!) come along and have your say.

Full details of the event

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Dealing with the free rider or “Campus Slacker”

There’s an interesting article in the THE today by Jack Grove, highlighting research around a strategy to deal with free riders in group work - something that as the LTT, we frequently get asked about. To this effort we’ve tried; looking at the history of wikis, self evaluation questionnaires and are currently exploring other web based tools to support review of group work. Therefore it was with interest that I saw this article outlining research conducted at the University of Valencia by Miguel Arevalillo-Herráez  and wondered if this would be an effective way of dealing with this problem head on.

The method outlined is simple ‘…students were offered the chance to gain a higher mark for their group assignment if they managed to raise the grade scored by the weakest student in individual tests on the same subject’.

The results put forward by Arvealillo-Herráez (2014) in suggest the method was highly successful in encouraging peer support and learning. In the original article (apologies if you’re off campus) he concludes suggesting that ‘We believe that reactive methods should be given a greater relevance, and these should be supported by motivational techniques as opposed to punishment’ (530).

It’s a very interesting suggestion, using a motivation technique that utilises peer support and cooperative learning in a very effective way.

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I came across an interesting app today (thanks to @drnickpearce for the link!) “Plickers”, using an app and printed codes as a voting system in small classes. How it looks like it works is that a question is posed and students hold up a card, rotating it a certain way to indicate A,B,C or D. Having a quick chat in the team about this, we also wondered if raised edges could be put onto some sides of the card to make them accessible.

Whilst this wouldn’t be of any use in a large lecture theatre (the limit is 40) it may be something to look at in smaller classes.
What I find most interesting is the idea of it being a very inclusive system, not dependent on every student having a mobile phone and given that the cards are printable, unlike voting handsets are easily replaceable.

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BBWorld14 Keynote by Jay Bhatt

At BBWorld, CEO and President Jay Bhatt delivered the corporate keynote along with the Blackboard Executive team …. this being the second BBWorld keynote that Jay has delivered.  The team shared their perspective on the new era of education in a learner-centric world and how Blackboard is helping address these changes.


New BB User Experience

At BB World last month, Vice President of User Experience Stephanie Weeks gave a short talk at the corporate keynote about Blackboard’s vision for a new user experience …. at only 7 minutes long it will give you a feel for what Blackboard hopes is the future for their product


Blackboard Streamline Learning Solutions

BB World 2014Last week at BB World 2014, we learned that Blackboard are to streamline their Learning Solutions to provide cost-effective combinations of their products and services to provide you with the technology and support best suited to each institution.

So let’s introduce you to the four solutions on offer:

1. Learning Core: Formerly Blackboard Learn including Content, Community, Mobile and XPLOR

2. Learning Essentials: Includes Learning Core plus Collaborate

3. Learning Insight: Includes Learning Core and Essentials plus Learning Analytics

4. Learning Insight & Student Retention: All of the above plus Data Analytics, Reporting and services to help identify, engage and retain at-risk students.

Here’s Jay Bhatt introducing us to the solutions in which he says “We have fundamentally changed the way we bring our product to you by making it easier to buy and deploy our point products.”

When these changes come about and whether prices will change remains to be seen … but we will bring you news when we find out.