Five top tips for delivering live online learning

Originally posted on Inspiring learning.

Over the last couple of months we’ve been working with the training team to create our own live online learning workshops for our members. Note the term “online workshop” – not webinar!

Live online learning with a coffee to hand :-)

(Image available on Pixabay under a Creative Commons CC0 licence).

Webinars can be passive experiences where you receive information. Interactivity can be quite low-key and participation in the session might be limited. We don’t want to lecture to people. That’s not what we are about at all.

We want to create an online experience that makes the attendees part of the session itself. An experience where their views matter and input is key. With this approach in mind we want to share with you our top tips and the benefits.

Top Tips for live online learning

1) Build in a rehearsal or two before going live with a trusty co-pilot. This is a great way of testing out the tech and the activities to make sure everything is working. Most platforms for delivering live online learning include a range of tools – such as drawing tools, chat, polls, and so on. It can be a challenge managing these and focusing on what you are going to say. Get yourself a guinea pig or two to practise on first!

2) Working with a co-pilot can be invaluable. You’ll receive important feedback and insight on how to refine what you are doing. Sometimes that can be as simple as double-checking that the images in your slide deck are appropriate and reflect the cultural diversity of our learners. It might involve reflecting on the different strategies to communicate your message, such as trying out chat pod discussions, opening up mics or even using breakout rooms.

name twitter

3) Keep the numbers to a manageable limit (especially if the attendees are all fresh to the platform and don’t know each other or the tutors). We decided on fifteen as an upper limit. Fifteen allows us to keep the session a little more personal and gave everyone an opportunity to network, have their voices heard or their input recognised. This would be challenging with larger numbers and would detract from the overall experience.

network tweet

4) Delivering synchronous online learning takes a lot of concentration, especially if it’s more than a couple of hours. It also takes a hit on your voice. Time seems to contract when delivering online as opposed to face-to-face. Seconds of silence can seem like an eternity online. However, don’t be afraid of pauses and don’t feel that you have to race through the session like it’s a sprint. Take it steady – and keep a couple of drinks nearby to keep your voice lubricated.

poll tweet5) Refer to the people in the session by name. Comment on what they have typed in the chat panel. This makes them feel included and keeps them alert. Being able to use people’s names during a session is a good way to keep them engaged (the so-called ‘cocktail party effect’).

pronounce name

Find out more

If you’d like to take part in one of our online workshops we are planning to deliver more over the coming months. Currently we have online workshops on Supporting learners’ digital identity and wellbeing, Developing learners’ employability skills and one on Digital storytelling where you can register your interest. You can also catch up on Twitter by following the #jisconlineworkshop hashtag.

The post Five top tips for delivering live online learning appeared first on Inspiring learning.

Looking at things differently…

Originally posted on e-Learning Stuff.


Though we talk about embedding digital technologies into practice, the reality is what we want to do is to undertake practices differently, and one way of doing this is through the use of digital.

So if you want to increase use of the VLE, we approach the problem by thinking how we can get people to use the VLE, use it more and use it in different ways.

By looking at things differently, using the VLE stops being the problem you are trying to solve, but the solution to a different problem.

The challenge can be that learners want to have access to a range of materials, resources, activities and conversations at a pace, time and place that suits them on a device of their choosing.

How do you get those resources and activities to the learner?

Well you could post them the printed resources, however you may not know which specific ones they want, so you would need to send them all! They would also be all in printed format, no video, no audio just print!


You could create conversation opportunities in specific rooms (or off campus locations) at a time and place that suited you, some learners, but not all.

You could determine when and where learning activities should take place, but give no flexibility to the learners about their circumstances or choices.

If we go back to the problem

…learners want to have access to a range of materials, resources, activities and conversations at a pace, time and place that suits them…

Then the VLE starts to become part of the solution to the problem of access, inclusion and flexibility.

An online space like the VLE can be used to store all the resources, the learner can choose which ones they want to access when (and where).

An online space like the VLE means you can do more than just text, you can have video files, audio recordings, even interactive content.
The VLE or other online spaces allow asynchronous conversations to happen, allowing discussion at different times and places for different learners. There are also opportunities for synchronous live conversations too, which can be combined with other resources and activities.

The VLE isn’t the problem, it’s part of the solution.

Does your pilot scale?

Originally posted on e-Learning Stuff.

scale model

One issue I have found with TEL research that is written about in journals or presented about at conferences, is that most if not all is based around small cohorts of learners and rarely looks at the impact across a whole organisation.

Sometimes the TEL research appears to be about doing research and not necessarily thinking about the scaling up and mainstreaming of the research at a later date.

Often the research has minimal funding, which means that you are forced to use a smaller number of learners. Often the lack of funding means that though there is existing research out there, rather than scale up from that, the research is duplicated (again with a smaller cohort).

It needs to be noted that sometimes TEL research shouldn’t be scaled up straight away because that may have a detrimental impact on the learners.

One lesson I would pass on, is if you are undertaking a small scale pilot is to reflect on how it would scale in the future. It’s not just about how the technology, device or process enhances and enriches teaching and learning, but what about all the other stuff. Logistics, charging, storage, training, support, staff development, sustainability, and end of life.

When the iPad was released in 2010, there were lots of iPad pilots undertaken by universities and colleges.


Most of these didn’t seem to take into account the challenges that a large scale roll-out of iPads would require. Where would the iPads be stored, how would they be charged? When it was released there were no charging carts available. I once asked a charging case company to provide a case for Nintendo DS, they couldn’t as there wasn’t the demand for one, and it was too expensive to test just for a single order. The end result was multiple six way gangs to charge the class set; it was no wonder so few people used them.

Another challenge with iPads was how a device designed for an individual could be use by multiple people. If you had a few you could reset them individually, fine if you had ten, impossible if you had a hundred. Then there was the challenge of getting apps on to them. You could sync multiple iPads to a single iTunes account, fine again if you had ten, not feasible if you had a few hundred! Eventually Apple released the management software to manage multiple iPads and the licensing platform to licence apps across multiple iPads.

However those initial iPad pilots weren’t always thinking in terms of that bigger picture, so weren’t able to scale effectively until those multiple iPad issues were resolved.

So if you are looking at a pilot, consider the following:

  • If it involves a device to a technology, what about the storage, where will they live when not being used? How will they be charged? What will be the process for booking them? Even if you have a small number consider the perspective if you had enough for everyone!
  • If it is a new process (or web based tool) you may be able to train the ten staff in the pilot, what about training the staff across the whole organisation, how is that going to happen and who is going to do it. Thinking about that at the pilot stage means that if the pilot is successful, it will be easier to scale and mainstream later. Similar considerations about staff development and support when things don’t go as planned.
  • There is also considerations of sustainability, whose budget will those costs by placed in after the pilot? Are they onboard?
  • What about end of life, equipment replacement, where will the funding for all that come from?

Small scale pilots are useful, but thinking about scale and mainstreaming early on will avoid major headaches and challenges later.

Making another game #disrupticon

Originally posted on e-Learning Stuff.

 Making another game #disrupticon

At the Rethinking Research: Disrupting and Challenging Research Practices conference where I was presenting a mapping session, one of the sessions I attended as a delegate was “Hacking the University Game” led by Luca Morin from Coventry University.

I hadn’t intended to attend this session, however as the presenter of the session I was in hadn’t turned up, I had to make another choice so came in late to this one.

In a previous blog post I talked about the design process for a vice-chancellors game we created as a group.

In another part of the session we were asked to reflect on a different kind of game, choosing a different subject to focus on. This time though we were asked not to think about the mechanics of the game, but focus on what the game was trying to enabler the players to learn. After chatting with the other person on my table we decided to do a game for students that demonstrated to them the difference between employability and education.

Many students sometimes focus on the skills they need for a job and think “education” isn’t as important as gaining employability skills.

The student's game

What we wanted the game to demonstrate to students was that undertaking a degree wasn’t (just) about gaining the skills for a future job, but that by undertaking the degree you would learn stuff in the subject, but by doing so would also gain the skills that would be transferable and useful in a future job. In addition that focusing on employability would be a false economy and learning those skills discretely independently from the degree subject takes longer than gaining those skills by learning in the subject area.

We used a simple example to explain this, learning how to use Excel is an useful employability skills. It takes time to learn how to use Excel effectively and gain skills that are transferable to the workplace. Without context though, the transfer and application of these skills can be challenging, especially if you’ve not done it before.

However using Excel to understand a series of data from the subject area and learning how to manipulate it within Excel not only means using Excel, but also learning how to use Excel in context. This makes it easier to understand how to use Excel, but you can apply it to different situations. As a result, using Excel within a subject context can make it quicker and easier to gain Excel skills, than learning to use Excel outside the context.

The game was about engaging learners in the process that though employability skills are important for a future job or career, these skills will be more transferable and enhanced by gaining them through learning in the subject context, then trying to do the bare minimum.

There were less steps using the employability route, but each step would take longer. The education route had more steps, but they could be completed more quickly. There were also connections between both routes.

Of course spending ten minutes thinking and designing a game that covers this doesn’t mean that this is a finished game and there are major flaws with the concept and design. However the exercise of creating a game does make you think about the problem and the core issues, that in itself is an useful exercise.

HEFCE blog post – Engaging students in pedagogic innovation: learning from small-scale innovation projects

Originally posted on Change Agents' Network.

A blog post on the HEFCE site on 9 January looks at the role students can play in the development and uptake of educational innovation and considers the impact on their learning.   This post finds that student engagement is necessarily at the heart of each project in their programme which focusses on pedagogic innovation in learning and teaching.

We hope that this will encourage you to join us for CAN 2018 at the University of Winchester in April.  Have a look at the event themes and the information about the event on the Event pages.

Register on the University of Winchester registration pageTake advantage of the Early Bird conference rate.

Designing learning and assessment in a digital age – new guide for higher and further education

Launched on 26th January, Designing learning and assessment in a digital age marks a milestone moment in learning design by capturing the most significant outputs from the last decade of research and development in technology-enhanced practice and combining these with up-to-date exemplars, resources for downloading and adaptation, plus links to sources of further information.

Appreciative inquiry lies at the heart of the guide’s approach. Guidance, expert testimony, case studies and opportunities to ‘get involved’ are clustered under four headings echoing the classic 4 D’s of appreciative inquiry:

  • Discover
  • Dream
  • Design
  • Deliver

So what follows in the guide is not about throwing aside what you already do well but engaging in an iterative process of enhancing your design practices, ensuring that you are taking full advantage of digital approaches at every stage in the creative process.

See below our model of the appreciative approach to learning design which also introduces the guide’s structure:



How will the guide make a difference?

Designing learning and assessment in a digital age provides easy access to ‘need-to-know’ information about the processes and initiatives you will need when designing or redesigning learning and assessment for your students.

No need then to chase around for those key resources and evidence of the impact of digital learning on the student experience! This comprehensive resource puts at your disposal the best exemplars and most salient supporting materials to help you in your decision making. In each section, you will also find ways of moving forward.

What our research told us

We conducted a series of in-depth interviews with staff in colleges and universities to pinpoint how digital tools are making a difference to the art of learning design in higher education and further education and skills, and have distilled these messages into the guide. These are some of the key points you made:

  • Obtaining students’ views on use of and feelings about technology in learning and assessment should be seen as a vital part of any design process
  • ‘Thinking digital’ is not just about putting paper resources on screen. Look for opportunities to develop learner-centred approaches, a more fluid, responsive curriculum – such as learning activities that allow for different outcomes – and teaching that is adaptive to student needs
  • An increasing number of studies show retention and other measures of student success can be positively influenced by the use of learning analytics.
  • What has proved particularly valuable in all parts of the sector is the card and storyboard approach originally pioneered by our Viewpoints project at Ulster University and adapted many times. This approach to designing whole programmes and modules allows teams to play with (i.e. visualise, undo and remake) a design until all the elements work effectively together
  • Learning design is a markedly social and collaborative activity, best undertaken in face-to-face groups which ideally involve students, teaching and support staff

What next?

To keep informed of future developments and events related to learning design, join the Learning Design Cross Institutional Network @ LEARNINGDESIGN@JISCMAIL.AC.UK and follow


We are piloting a new data-informed approach to the design of blended learning and are running a workshop, on 20th March in Birmingham, to test the concept. If you are interested in participating in order to give us feedback and help develop the approach you can find out more here.

Please bookmark the new guide:
We welcome your feedback on the guide to inform future iterations. Please email any comments to

13th UK Learning Analytics Network meeting, University of Edinburgh, 22nd Feb 2018

Originally posted on Effective Learning Analytics.

Jisc’s next learning analytics network meeting is in Edinburgh on 22nd Feb 2018. These popular events comprise a range of presentations and discussion sessions – and an opportunity to network with colleagues involved in learning analytics projects at other institutions.
Edinburgh Castle
We’ll be hearing from a range of experts in learning analytics, including presentations about Edinburgh’s work on the SHEILA project and the latest developments with Civitas Learning and at Jisc.

We’ll also be exploring two emerging topics through workshop sessions: the use of assessment data for learning analytics and using analytics to address student mental health issues.

The draft agenda is below. Please register early to ensure a place at the event.

Draft Agenda

10:00 – 16:00, Thurs 22nd Feb 2018
Hosted by the University of Edinburgh

Room F.21
7 George Square

Registration form   Transport & parking     Campus Maps

09:30 – 10:15 Arrival and coffee
10:15 – 10:25 Arrangements for the day & welcome to the University of Edinburgh
10:25 – 10:35 Opening Address Sian Bayne, Professor of Digital Education & Assistant Principal for Digital Education
10:35 – 11:00 Update on Jisc effective learning analytics project  Michael Webb, Rob Wyn Jones, Paul Bailey, Jisc
11:00 – 12:00 Learning analytics and student mental health – workshop Niall Sclater, Jisc & Sam Ahern, UCL
12:00 – 13:00 Lunch and networking
13:00 – 14:00 Learning Analytics at the University of Edinburgh: The SHEILA Project  Anne-Marie Scott & Yi-Shan Tsai, Edinburgh
14:00 – 15:00 Data requirements for assessment data in learning analytics – workshop Kerr Gardiner, Michael Webb, Jisc
15:00 – 15:15 Tea / coffee
15:15 – 15:55 Current developments with Civitas Learning Mara Richard
15:55 – 16:00 Farewell


Making a game #disrupticon

Originally posted on e-Learning Stuff.


At the Rethinking Research: Disrupting and Challenging Research Practices conference where I was presenting a mapping session, one of the sessions I attended as a delegate was “Hacking the University Game” led by Luca Morin from Coventry University.

I hadn’t intended to attend this session, however as the presenter of the session I was in hadn’t turned up, I had to make another choice so came in late to this one.

When I arrived Luca was taking about the Landlord Game and Monopoly and on the table was a selection of dice, playing cards, blocks, pen, blank cards, pieces and other stuff.

creating games

A bit unsure of the aim of the session I listened carefully and tried to get up to speed.

The first activity (for me) in the workshop was for our table to design a “Vice-Chancellor’s Game”.

When it comes to game design you need to reflect on the aim of the game, what do the players need to do to “win”, is this a competitive or a collaborative game.

My thinking was that there were two approaches to this game, one was to focus on a single university or to go for a UK wide game where universities compete against each other.

In the UK wide game, players would be vice-chancellors competing against each other to make their university the best and win the game.

In a single university game you could have a competitive game where the players play characters who are senior managers competing with each others to become Vice-Chancellor. Another game could have the players collaborating together to make their university the most successful.

On our table we took the choice of a single university competitive game with the vice-chancellor “competing” with the academic staff, students and professional services.

The Vice Chancellor's Game

Each player has a unique table with attributes that reflect their role’s objectives. We used blocks to RAG (red, amber green) rate each attribute. Then using some kind of process, players play cards against each other or themselves. These would then improve or deprecate their RAG ratings. These cards can be offset by dice rolls (and or money).The aim of the game is for the players to ensure all their attributes green.

It was an interesting exercise in thinking about the game idea and start to reflect on the mechanics about how this game would work. As with any game the mechanics and algorithms would reflect the bias of the game designer, so that would need to be taken into account.

For me the process of designing a game is probably more useful than playing the game itself for participants. I enjoyed this aspect of the session.

“I don’t know how to use the VLE!”

Originally posted on e-Learning Stuff.

A model of VLE embedding and development

Despite many people talking about the death of the VLE over the years, the institutional VLE is still an important component of most colleges and universities offer in the online space. Whether this be supporting existing programmes of study, those offering a blended approach, or even for fully online programmes.

For most universities and colleges, growth in the use of the VLE is relatively organic, with little planning on either side. Training is often focused on the mechanistic and technical aspects of the VLE. Some training looks at the learning first, but without understanding the potential of the functionality or the affordances of the VLE, it can be challenging for practitioners to work out how to use the VLE to meet the needs of that learning activity.

The end result is an inconsistent approach to how practitioners use the VLE which can be confusing for learners who have multiple modules or courses delivered by different people. The other end result is that sometimes an inappropriate function of the VLE is used resulting in a challenging experience in learning something, with the challenge being using the technology, not understanding the learning.

One of the attractive aspects of any VLE is the range of functionality that it offers allowing practitioners (academics, teachers, lecturers) many different ways to engage with learners and create learning activities.

However that very attractiveness in variety of functionality, is also the real challenge in getting the VLE adopted. Faced with a wealth of features, many practitioners won’t know where to start and what they should do first, as well as how much they should do as well.

Likewise if you want staff to integrate and link with other tools and plug them into the VLE, then there is an additional level of functionality (and features) that needs to be understood. Not just those of the VLE, or the other tool, but how best to integrate and link them. You may for example want staff to connect their blog (or their learners’ blogs) into the VLE for discussion and comment.

For many years when supporting staff I realised that a more sustainable and holistic approach was to break down using the VLE into a series of step changes or stages. These stages would be relatively simple to adopt, and once confident and using the VLE at each stage, the practitioner could then move onto the next stage. This echoed the approach that most advanced VLE users had taken, but probably didn’t realise they had.

Too often when talking about the VLE to others, it can be easy to forget our own learning journey with the VLE and assume others can embrace all that functionality in one go. Also many practitioners who are seeking help and support, may not really understand the process of self learning on how to use the VLE that “expert” practitioners have been through and are expecting to pick it up all in one training session.

The use of steps or small changes is one that many practitioners can embrace and can use to make best use of the VLE and start on a journey integrating third party tools into the VLE.

Back in 2010 I published the five stage model I had been using.

A five stage model for using the VLE

VLEs have a huge range of functionality, a lot of criticism often laid against the VLE is that some users are not aware of those functions.

There is often too much information about the VLE for new users who may not understand many of the concepts or have the skills to fully utilise the functionality of the VLE.

This five stage model was designed to support and enable staff to easily embed use of the VLE into their teaching and learning. I wasn’t alone in doing this and I am aware of others across higher and further education who had a similar line of thinking.

For the purposes of this article I am going to re-visit the VLE five stage model and provide an updated version that can be used to support and train staff to enable them to use the VLE effectively and hopefully a better experience for the learners.

The original model got a fair bit of comment and criticism. One of the points made was that uploading resources such as existing Word documents was flawed as a better approach was that to put the text straight into the VLE as it would make it better for the learner. With files such as Word document, the learner has to have the right software, download the file to read it. Whereas just putting straight text (and content) into the VLE means its can be just read there and then, makes it more accessible more quickly. I have incorporated that critique into the model as I don’t disagree with that sentiment (and didn’t at the time), however we need to consider that some staff have a large collection of existing digital files that they may want to use with their learners, so I don’t think the concept of uploading files should be dismissed.

As with the previous model there are five main stages. The concept is that a member of staff gets themselves comfortable with each stage before moving onto the next stage. Within each stage it may be possible to break it down into smaller steps or stages. As a result the length of time it will take to do each stage is dependent on not just the member of staff, but also the number of sub-stages that need to be completed. This is less about rushing through the stages but ensuring staff are comfortable and competent at each stage, and ensuring that they then move onto the next stage.

Unlike the previous model, though there are five stages, the final three stages are not taking in order, the practitioner can use which of the three to do first (and which would be most useful to their practice and their learners).

Stage One

Upload to the VLE the scheme of work, information about the course (for example reading lists), useful links, information about the lecturer. If there is a course handbook then this could also be uploaded.

Stage Two

You could upload the presentation slides, other course resources, handouts, assignments, detailed schemes of work and more links.

Now this is something that is often laid against VLEs as why they don’t work as they are merely used as repositories of materials. However practitioners who are unfamiliar with the VLE often need a starting point. To throw the full functionality of the VLE at a practitioner who may be apprehensive about using the VLE and unsure of the benefits, is similar to throwing a learner driver onto a Formula One racetrack! Or maybe throwing them onto the M25.

Though one of the issues with uploading files to the VLE is that this can cause issues for the end user (the learner) who may not have the original programme to open the file. This is exacerbated if the learner is using a mobile device to access the learner. The original model was criticised on this point, as rather than uploading Word files to the VLE, the practitioner should enter the text (or copy and paste) so that the end user experience is much better.

So though I agree with the criticism and the sentiment, as it does make more sense for the learner, I am also appreciative of the challenge in getting practitioners to use the VLE. Yes uploading files is not as great as entering content direct into the VLE, having some stuff up there is better than not having stuff up there from the learner’s view point.

Having said that you can a mini stage which is about adding content direct into the VLE.

Stage Three

There are three choices at stage three.

Stage Three Choice One Engagement

Add engagement by learners through the use of discussion forums. Online discussions can engage learners in a variety of learning activities.

You can also add discussion by linking into the VLE external tools such as Twitter or Slack, if there is where the discussion is.

Stage Three Choice Two Content

Add more content try and put up new content at least weekly.
So then you’ll get asked what content should you put up. Well a lot depends on how the practitioner delivers learning, but could include:

  • All the pages from interactive whiteboard sessions from the classroom.
  • Photographs of pen based whiteboard or flip chart activity.
  • Videos, either embedded, or uploaded, very easy to embed videos from services such as YouTube or Vimeo.
  • Embedding presentations from services such as Sway or Prezi.
  • Links to e-Books in the virtual library or online libraries.
  • Audio recordings, these could be by learners or by practitioners, an overview of the lesson, topic or subject.
  • Learning objects from various repositories.
  • Images and photographs.
  • Lecture capture recordings.
  • Embedding outcomes of using tools such as Padlet.
  • RSS feeds that learners could subscribe to, though these are getting rarer, so you might want to add a link to a Twitter account instead!
  • Photographs of paper based exercises, if you for example use flip charts for brainstorming sessions, taking photographs of them and uploading those images can make it easier for learners to remember what they did. In the previous article I said in this section “with digital cameras” as they were a thing back then, today most modern phones have excellent cameras for this kind of activity.
Stage Three Choice Three Interaction

Add interactivity to the course through the use of quizzes and feedback. Quizzes are often part of the core VLE system, sometimes external quizzes can be uploaded and added.


By now usage of the VLE will be pretty much embedded into the delivery of the course. It will be much easier for the practitioner to offer the course through a blended approach and be more able to deliver learning in times of closure (say through snow).

This is just one approach, please share in the comments how you are embedding practice in the use of the VLE.“I don’t know how to use the VLE!”

CAN 2018 @ the University of Winchester – Registration is now open

Originally posted on Change Agents' Network.

Registration is now open for the Change Agent Network Conference 2018 – Student-Staff Partnerships in an Age of Change at the University of Winchester (19th-20th April 2018)   Over 60 papers, workshops and symposiums showcasing student engagement, partnership, digital capabilities initiatives and research from across UK higher and further education and skills.
Confirmed Keynote Speakers:
Tali Atvars—Winchester Student Union President
Colette Fletcher—Assistant Vice Chancellor (University of Winchester)
Professor Tansy Jessop – Professor in Research Informed Teaching (Southampton Solent University)

To Register:
Please visit the University of Winchester registration page.
Take advantage of the Early Bird conference rate!

Keep up to date                                                                                                                                    Follow #CAN2018 to keep updated on conference developments and please contact with any queries.

Conference themes:

Theme One: Keeping student engagement and partnership relevant in an age of change  Theme Two: Researching, evaluating and evidencing effective engagement and partnership    Theme Three: Developing digital capabilities in an ever changing landscape                         Theme Four: Ensuring the student voice is heard and the feedback loop is completed       Theme Five: Student-staff partnerships to support innovation and inclusivity in the curriculum Theme Six: Entrepreneurship and innovation showcase

The full agenda will be released in February 2018.