Goldsmith’s Conference: Designing Learning Landscapes

Stefano Casalotti & I attended this conference on Friday 30th May.

These events are never easy to encapsulate and I for one often get very engaged in the twitter back channel at the expense of some of the finer detail in the presentations. So thanks to Doug Clow of the OU for his contemporaneous notes. If you want a more comprehensive picture please check these:



To get the twitter perspective check the hashtag #dllgold14


We heard from an engineer & a chemist which as someone noted in the closing remarks was novel for a learning & teaching conference at an institution like Goldsmith’s.

As a learning technologist who sometimes despairs of engaging academics in TEL, it was encouraging to hear from both Andrea Sella (Professor of Material and Inorganic Chemistry, University College London) and John Forthergill (formerly of Leicester & now Professor of Engineering and Pro Vice-Chancellor, Research & Enterprise, City University) not just because they’re academics but senior ones to boot with eminence in their own disciplines.

Andrea Sella has been involved in VLEs and other learning technologies since the beginning (thanks to the encouragement of Tina Rowe, a learning technologist formerly of UCL now working at Goldsmith’s). In more recent years he has been looking for ways to ‘facebook’ise’ the offering on Moodle by making it more attractive & engaging. As well as focusing on appearance he uses a lot of conventional features such as s forums & quizzes. He also makes extensive use of video not just for straightforward lecture capture but for flipping, for feedback post exam, for pre-lab demos et al. He also mentioned that viewing increases if there’s an accompanying quiz. He uses other features too such as rss feeds to subject specific web sites and twitter hashtags. I liked his concept of “baiting” the students – getting them engaged so they learn for themselves.

In summary, Andrea’s advice to time poor academics was to use VLEs for what they’re good at and free up time for quality face to face contact with students (ref NSS et al). He also expressed regret that that it had taken 15 years to persuade his colleagues of the value of TEL and that many remain unconvinced.

When John Fothergill  started at Leicester university as a lecturer he was told to teach “2nd year Materials with 24 lectures and an exam” a model of which he fortunately was never convinced. Fast forward to mid 2000’s and he hit the headlines as a podcasting academic in this Guardian article and a different kind of rapper in this HEA article

John outlined three different case studies where he used technology interventions – see Doug’s notes.

Neither John nor Andrea are doing anything revolutionary but they’re both determined to engage with students, maximise the options available through TEL and enthuse their colleagues to do the same. Both acknowledged the limitations of the conventional lecture whether recorded or not. Both emphasised the need for staff to have dedicated time to engage with TEL.

Morning Parallel sessions: Elearning & Inclusion

I attended two very interesting and thought provoking sessions:

Ronald McIntyre of OU Scotland extended our notions of open practice (and of teaching practice generally) to include design as well as content i.e. designing with learners not just for learners. One of the outcomes of this approach in the project he cited was to abandon use of the OU Moodle platform in favour of a much more low tech solution which suited the community participants involved. The principles of participatory design are fundamental to his thinking – see this paper for a more in depth coverage but also bear in mind that he has moved on since this publication. The challenge is to consider how these concepts might translate to more conventional HE/FE contexts.  There is plenty of evidence of learner centred design but less on learner participation in the design process though the JISC Students as Agents of Change and related projects seem to be a move in the right direction – at least for institutions involved.

Ronald was followed by Penny Andrews who gave the learner perspective on inclusive elearning (or was it just learning?). Her presentation is now available courtesy of the Goldsmith’s blog Learning Support and Technology-Enhanced Learning FINAL Penny has much to say on the success or failure of learning technology to provide for students with disabilities – in her case those on the autism spectrum, many of whom may not be diagnosed. She herself was not diagnosed until she was 30 by which time she had dropped out of two HEIs and eventually succeeded at one (the OU).  She challenged us to think about accommodation for all students in designing learning environments by which in broad terms she means clear structures, purposeful use of resources and provision of proactive & timely support. Don’t wait for a student to tell you there’s a problem – most won’t. While accepting that e-learning must be as inclusive as possible I couldn’t help thinking that attempting to do the best by all might be at the expense of current notions of creating independent learners. Earlier, for example, Andrea Sella had extolled the virtues of avoiding handouts and encouraging students to be more active note-takers. However would this work for learners who need as much information as possible to support the learning process?

PANEL Discussion with:

  • Alejandro Armellini, Professor of Learning and Teaching in Higher Education, University of Northampton
  • Diana Laurillard, Professor of Learning and Digital Technologies, Institute of Education, University of London
  • Belinda Tynan, Professor and Pro Vice-Chancellor, Learning, Teaching and Quality, The Open University

I can’t begin to do justice to this so please see Doug’s notes. A few points of note (quotes are from D Clow not necessarily verbatim from panellist):


On moocs

what problem are MOOCs solving that we had? Difficult to answer. At the moment, seems to be we are able to give highly-educated professionals free education.

but as a counter was able to inform us that IoE have:

Started a MOOC on ICT in Primary Education. >40% in it are in emerging economies


On staff engagement (or lack of it):

raise commitment to T&L alongside discipline

if academics fear technology will replace them, maybe they should go


On TEL strategy:

Mobile, open, inclusive …. connected, scalable ….  risk taking ….  horizon scanning

On encouraging staff take up of TEL:

To innovate you can’t just add and hope for the best. You have to have evidence. Colleagues generally happy to explore new ideas if two things in place: one is evidence, the other is support.

capacity-building approach …. making staff self-sufficient without turning them into web designers or learning technologists

Colleagues who regard themselves as technophobes. We have developed a L&T plan, accreditation by HEA

Afternoon Parallel session: e-Portfolios

Amanda Kipling  and some students (Goldsmith’s)

Amanda spoke of her relief at the transition from suitcases of poorly curated portfolio material to e-portfolios of select and considered content. We heard how her students are using Mahara (on a social/community education programme?)  while on placement. The students themselves presented what they were doing which added real value to the session. Their main use of Mahara was as a journal to which they posted on a regular basis & shared with peers, tutors and external supervisors who in turn fed back and helped students reflect further in subsequent posts. Sharing with peers was highly valued – in my experience sharing of this sort is often only with supervisory staff.

I note via Doug’s notes that there were some other interesting sessions including:

“Developing digital literacies for practice-based massive open online communities of interest – a social enterprise model” This website seems to be central:  and may well be of interest to UEL staff in the Arts.

And last but not least I must draw your attention to Doug’s own presentation on Learner analytics, which I didn’t attend but having heard him on the subject elsewhere I can recommend.

1 Comment

  1. stefano casalotti

    As Rose said I also attended the conference and went to different parallel sessions

    Parallel Session on : Assessment
    Tim Smale (Keele University) presented on the use of google forms as a marking tool for practical sessions. Staff were given an iPAD and access to a google form to instantly mark practical assessments (Nursing degree) The advantage was that it was very easy to use for staff , it saved time in terms of collection of data and provided very prompt feedback to the students. The spreadsheet which collects the information from the Google form was shared among the staff, and individual rows of information were sent to the students for feedback.

    Parallel Session on e learning design

    Elizabeth Hauke (Imperial College) Presented a module that was designed to make imperial college students more employable and less detached from the workplace reality (as a internal review had identified). One of the key element of the module was student group work (about 10 students each) via wiki. Each group was moderated by a graduate student and the module leader oversaw the whole programme. The approach proved successful with high student participation rates


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