Category Archives: Blogs

Distance Learning in a Research Intensive University: A Coalition of the Willing

Like many other UK Higher Education Institutions, The University of Manchester is ramping up its current distance learning provision as a means of simultaneously expanding student numbers, offering greater flexibility to students and increasing global reach and reputation across the globe.  This change in pedagogical emphasis has been underway for a couple of years now, and a number of high-profile campus-based postgraduate programmes are currently being converted into a distance learning (or as we prefer to say a location-independent learning model).

As a relative newcomer to the world of distance learning, The University of Manchester has been working quite closely with Penn State University in the US, who have a renowned and well-established World Campus which delivers quality online courses at undergraduate, masters and doctoral level.

Last week we were privileged to host two senior Penn State University (PSU) staff members at our School of MACE Teaching and Learning Community of Practice – where the topic under discussion was distance learning: an academic and instructional design perspective.  As an academic who is currently wrestling with the transition of an existing campus based programme to distance learning, I found the seminar hugely useful.  My aim here is to share what I learnt with the wider community at The University of Manchester and beyond.  Continue reading Distance Learning in a Research Intensive University: A Coalition of the Willing

Using on-line communication tools more effectively

At our first School Teaching and Learning Community of Practice event 2017, we enjoyed a presentation from Hannah Cook of the Faculty eLearning Team on how to use on-line communication tools more effectively.

This was an eye opener for many of us.  We learnt some great tips and tricks for using Blackboard (our institutional VLE) and other on-line communication tools (like padlet and wordpress)  to improve how we communicate, both with each other, and more importantly with our students.

Hannah’s presentation is available here  Using online communications tools more effectively .  Its well worth a look if you are struggling to communicate effectively, yet efficiently, to often very large cohorts of students.

Putting the Community into eLearning

Just over two years ago I was asked to take on the role of Academic Lead for eLearning within the School of Mechanical, Aerospace and Civil Engineering at The University of Manchester. We are a large school (120 academic staff) covering a number of engineering and management disciplines.  In common with many academic departments, this has resulted in a somewhat silo mentality; long, often deserted corridors, and staff only communicating with their immediate research and teaching colleagues. My sense at that time was that there was plenty of eLearning expertise within the School, but that this expertise existed in small pockets of excellence, which were isolated and often unaware of each other.

If this sounds like a familiar picture, then read the story of how we used a Community Practice to connect, encourage and strengthen our eLearning practices within the School, which has just been published on the Higher Education Academy Learning and Teaching Blog –  Putting the Community into eLearning

Lecture Response Systems

banners-learning-lecture-room1200x250Large classes present a number of challenges for HE academic staff.  Students typically sit in vast tiered lecture theatres whilst a lone figure patrols the stage in front of them, seeking to impart knowledge and enthusiasm of the lecture topic.  It can be very difficult to actively engage students in such an environment and to gauge whether the students are actually learning anything.  One approach that a number of academics in the School of Mechanical, Aerospace and Civil Engineering (MACE) have tried is to experiment with different lecture response systems. Such was the level of interest that we made this topic the subject of our School of MACE eLearning Community of Practice meeting in Sept 2015.

We discussed four different lecture response systems during the meeting: Mentimeter, mbclick, Twitter and electronic handset based systems (commonly known as clickers) Continue reading Lecture Response Systems

Designing assessments that are meaningful, equitable and manageable in UK higher education

Designing assessments for very large classes is often a problematic experience for academic staff, a challenge that is magnified in today’s highly internationalised student environment. In this post, which has been published on the Higher Education Academy website, I discuss the considerations and constraints that must be taken into account when designing assessments that are meaningful, equitable and manageable for both staff and students alike. The post will be of particular interest to the “newbie academic” or those facing the challenges of large class teaching for the first time. You can read the post here

Screenshot 2015-08-19 17.14.15