Using Action Learning Sets with students, mentors within our partnership schools and the wider community within Goldsmiths

Liz Morrison (left) Alison Griffiths (right)



The approach we explored in our project was based upon Action Learning.  Action Learning is an approach to empowering the individual to address problems or issues that have arisen in their professional experience that was developed by Reg Revans and has been widely adopted by a range of organisations for a range of purposes. The action learning approach:

“…is a means of development, intellectual, emotional or physical that requires its subjects, through responsible involvement in some real, complex and stressful problem, to achieve intended change to improve their observable behaviour henceforth in the problem field.”(Revans 1982: 626–7)


It involves the individual in engaging in small group focussed, structured reflection. Some of the characteristics of Action Learning includes:

  • a real problem that is important, critical, and usually complex;
  • a diverse problem-solving team or “set”;
  • a process that promotes curiosity, inquiry, and reflection;
  • a requirement that talk be converted into action and, ultimately, a solution, and a commitment to learning.


Our project had three stages:

  • The facilitation of Action Learning sets designed to support tutors from the PGCE Programme Team at Goldsmiths;
  • To train staff in how to facilitate Action Learning sets to support others they work with;
  • To broaden the learning arising from the Action Learning Sets to students, mentors within our partnership schools and the wider community within Goldsmiths.

The approach, as we interpreted it, initially fell within the “experiential school” that has learning at its heart and draws on Kolb’s (1984) learning cycle as its theoretical base.  This means that the starting point for learning is action with members of the learning set reflecting upon experience with the support of others, followed by further action, in order to change previous patterns. The overall goal of the Action Learning set is not to give advice but rather to question, with the aim of empowering the individual to generate their own solutions to the problem they have brought with them.


Revans, R. (1982) The Origin and Growth of Action Learning. Chartwell Bratt, Bromley.


Alison and Liz will be leading a Lunchtime Conversation on the topic, as part of the season of talk in the Autumn Term, 2018.  Further details in the Staff Learning Hub.



Posted in Uncategorized

Beyond Lecture Capture

On Thursday 14 June I attended an event organised by the Digital Education Group of the Universities and Colleges Information Systems Association which looked at experiences of lecture recording and video for learning in general.

There were presentations from a number of institutions, with academic and learning technology staff sharing their experience. There was also a student panel who discussed their use of the technology.

Typically what was recorded was the presenter’s voice and whatever happened to be on the screen – slides or maybe a visualiser. I’ve worked in a couple of institutions that used Panopto and I’m aware of both the concerns of staff and the enthusiasm of students for the technology, but Thursday’s sessions highlighted some interesting new findings or advantages:

  • Students actively listen in the lecture, note key points and then complete their notes from viewing the recordings. As one student said, if he looked through his notes and wondered why he’d written ‘trees’, he could go through the recording, find the relevant bit and amend his notes
  • Students actively listening make lectures more engaging for staff – the students are actually looking at you and paying attention!
  • The type of questions students ask show a deeper learning
  • In one course, the lecturer found that 62% students report reduced anxiety about the module and the number of 1sts and 2.1s increased
  • Students mainly watch at home or in student accommodation (mobile viewing still a small part of the picture)

The major problems from the student viewpoint were:

  • Lectures not always being recorded (either a technical issue or a module lead not wishing to be recorded – students need to know if something is not being recorded)
  • Poor quality or missing sound, either a microphone not working or the lecturer moving away from the lectern

From the staff viewpoint, a couple of concerns and recommendations:

  • Students need an induction in how to use the recordings, contextualised by academics in terms of note-taking and revision strategies (eg: watching the whole thing through repeatedly is not a good way to learn)
  • Set up a steering group with academics, students, IT, timetabling, estates, AV and learning technology staff

Generally there was agreement among staff and students that lecture recording is a valuable supplement, not a replacement for being present.

Finally Ale Armenelli from the University of Northamption spoke about their model of Active blended learning (below) which dispenses with lecture theatres and lectures.

Northampton's ABL

Northampton’s ABL


The largest rooms on the new campus accomodate around 60 people for team based learning activities.

Interestingly they don’t have staff offices either, including the VC. At which the room went strangely quiet, apart from the odd jaw dropping….

View the programme and presentations



Posted in Uncategorized

From GIST to Enhancing Academic Skills Online

Antonia Lewis reports on a TaLIC Teaching & Learning Fellowship Award project, commissioned during spring, 2017.

staff photoThis project originally stemmed from the need to update an online library and academic skills tutorial situated on – GIST (Goldsmiths Information Skills Tutorial).  GIST, also realised with funding from TaLIC in 2012, was designed as a collaborative project between Library staff and the former CELAW.  It followed observations that information and academic skills resources needed to be more clearly sign-posted as a ‘one-stop shop’.  GIST proved popular, but its content and appearance had become out of date.  Many of the resources it listed had been superseded, particularly as the Library had undergone a process to update its online catalogue.  Student feedback from a focus group run in January also confirmed that a new approach would be worthwhile.  The old, existing GIST resource was felt to be ‘too detailed’ and felt ‘overwhelming’.  Feedback suggested that more visual elements were needed and clearer, more obvious chapter headings, such as “How to write an essay”, might work more effectively.

This time, it made sense to work collaboratively with members of the team who deliver the Enhancing Academic Skills (EAS) workshops ( – most of whom are now members of the new Academic Skills Centre.  It was proposed that the GIST structure could be unpicked and rebuilt as an academic skills resource, modelled on the portfolio of sessions delivered as part of EAS.  With these changes, the materials might better support and reinforce face-to-face teaching that was taking place at the same time.

There were several challenges in getting started.  The project timeline coincided with departmental restructures and some senior staff moving on or leaving.  The creation of the Academic Skills Centre had just been announced.  Working collaboratively across departments when staff have different priorities and management responsibilities also took a while to negotiate.  However with some persistence, a solid team emerged and we pressed forward with the project plan.

Progress was slow, but by working steadily and consistently over the summer, a resource began to take shape.  At times, there were some technical challenges.  Many of the applications we used to create content with had to be self-taught and a process of trial and error was often used to get the sound and visuals up to standard.  The practicalities of finding time, despite the extra funding, created additional pressure.

By the end of September, the majority of the content was complete and the  Enhancing Academic Skills Online ( resource was launched, just after Welcome Week in September.  A decision was also made to retain some content on the VLE, but the main resource sits on the platform – Libguides – a simple and widely used content management system designed for Libraries.

Enhancing Academic Skills Online includes chapters on – ‘Making the Most of Lectures and Seminars’ – ‘Researching, Using the Library and Referencing’ (with subsections such as ‘Using Library Search’, ‘Advanced Search Techniques’ and Zotero). Each section contains tutorials, video demos and interactive elements.


Enhancing Academic Skills Online is still seen as a work in progress.  The next stage will  be to test the resource and gather feedback on its use, to finalise developments and to refine the roll-out strategy.  Another student focus group is planned for the middle of January 2018 and the resulting feedback will be rolled into the next iteration.  Let us know what you think.


For more information or to feedback your views, please contact: Antonia Lewis (

Posted in Events & Projects, Lunch-time seminar, Teaching Fellowships

Update on the development of the key situations in social work research

adi_staempfiAdi Staempfli (Lecturer in Social Work) updates us on the progress made in his project supported by TaLIC’s Fellowship (now Awards) scheme in 2017.

In my research I am developing the Key Situation reflective learning model for English social work education and continuous professional development.  It is a situation-based pedagogical approach (Ghisla, Boldrini and Bausch, 2014) that organises learning and artefacts around typical recurring professional situations (Tov, Kunz and Staempfli, 2016).  The concept of ‘situation’ is thus a tool for capturing and describing practice that allows reflexive learning and knowledge management that is rooted in practice.  To adopt the model for English social work I have started a participatory research process with experienced social workers to describe English social work key situations.

Funding, obtained through Goldsmiths’ Teaching and Learning Fellowship, enabled me to offer participants vouchers for their participation in a one-day research workshop.  I have successfully recruited 13 participants who took part in one of two workshops.  The social workers represented both adult, children and families and independent social work fields and came from far and wide, from both urban and rural areas of England.  I was humbled by the willingness of these practitioners to give up at least a day of their time to participate.

The participants identified over 180 tasks, processes and practice situations that were visualised, discussed, analysed and clustered into 16 areas of responsibilities.


Participants started to name key situations, such as ‘Having an initial conversation’; ‘Gather information to plan next steps’; ‘Dealing with a crisis situation’ and ‘Having a first meeting’ and around 40 draft situations have been named.

Following these workshops, I will review the situations and analyse whether any important fields or practice areas have been left out.  After this, participants will be invited to join a Wiki page on the key situation platform to further develop the key situations.  In a last round I am planning to invite others to join the online discussion and to review the whole title list as part of an external before opening the new Key Situations in English Social Work platform to the profession.

If you are interested in contributing to the review and validation of key situations, please contact me by email:

Adi Staempfli, Lecturer in Social Work, Programme Convener MA in Advanced Social Work (Practice Education) and Co-president of the Association Network Key Situations in Social Work


Selected publications

Ghisla, Gianni; Bausch Elena and Boldrini, Luca (2014) Bausch SiD –Situation-based Didactics. A guide for teachers in vocational training. Lugano and Zollikofen: Swiss Federal Institute for Vocational Education and Training SFIVET.

Staempfli, Adi; Tov, Eva; Kunz, Regula, Tschopp, Dominik & Eugster-Stamm, Stefan (2016). Improving professionalism through reflection and discourse in communities of practice: The key situations in social work model and project. Journal of Practice Teaching and Learning, 14(2), 59-79.

Staempfli, Adi; Kunz, Regula & Tov, Eva (2012). Creating a bridge between theory and practice: working with key situations. European Journal of Social Education, 22/23, 60-78

Tov, E., Kunz, R., & Stämpfli, A. (2016). Schlüsselsituationen der Sozialen Arbeit. Professionalität durch Wissen, Reflexion und Diskurs in Communities of Practice. 2. Auflage

Tagged with:
Posted in Lunch-time seminar, Project Reports, Teaching Fellowships, Training and Support

Impressions, feelings, and senses of things


I recently had the pleasure to meet with Ceiren Bell from the Department of Media and Communications (Goldsmiths, University of London) to talk about the VLE space. Here I post my reflections about designing online learning spaces after our conversations.

Jesse Stommel says,

When we teach online, we have to build both the course and the classroom. A good learning management system is a tool that can help with this process; however, we should never let its design decisions — its architecture — dictate our pedagogies.

Indeed, teaching online requires good design thinking because the web architecture, the structure of the space, is more or less malleable. The space itself can change and should change with students, with their activities and with what they bring to the class, but at the very least, instructors should know how to create a welcoming and engaging living space. “It’s all about media and communications!” Ceiren said at one point in our conversation, and I couldn’t agree more.

Media, as Marshall McLuhan suggested, affects how we perceive the message. Imagine an instructor posting a welcome video on her site rather than text based content during the first week of class. The video will have a different feeling than text, even if the content is exactly the same. Or let’s say, even if the content appears the same because, as Ted Nelson explains,

“The character of what gets across is always dual; both the explicit structures, and feelings that go with them. These two aspects, exactness and connotation, are an inseparable whole; what is conveyed generally has both. The reader or viewer always gets feelings along with information, even when the creators of the information think that its “content” is much more restricted” (p. 319).

Nelson also talks about how technical manuals, for example, might carry with them an air of authority, non-imagination or competence depending on the readers’ perceptions of how the information is presented. Because, he says, “people receive not only cognitive structures, but impressions, feelings and senses of things.”

Yes! We need to think about content, resources, activities, assessments… but beyond all of that… beyond the “deliverables,” isn’t there a need to pay more attention to “impressions, feelings, and senses of things”? Decisions about media do matter in an online course, where visual clues and bodily experiences are limited by the two dimensional structure of the web.

If we are going to pay attention to the visceral experience, we may also ask, is the VLE a space of reflective (or social) engagement or is it a space of isolation and disengagement? As instructors, how can we make it a space for and of creativity, critical and radical thinking with our intentional choices? How can we make it a place where the whole person can exist? (By whole person I mean acknowledging students with all their complexities, as political and social beings – not just brains to be filled in with new knowledge.)

These are big questions but it may be surprisingly easy to create an engaging online space. Posting informal videos, asking students to post media on the site, allowing them to work on projects that personally matter to them, giving them choices and the agency to further shape the environment are all ways to achieve a vibrant learning environment. It’s, as Ceiren said, all about media and communications, understanding that the VLE is a space we can all co-construct together – for better or worse.

Posted in Practices & Pedagogy, Teaching & Learning

Going Beyond Humanizing Online Learning

If “democracy is a system of self-governance where governance is justified by consent of the governed,,” then are our educational institutions democratic? How about our classes? How about the online learning areas we set up for our students like the VLE?

Join this talk to discuss ways to create a democratic platform in online and blended learning. We will talk about shifts and tensions in teacher identity when we move to online spaces, our imagined audience and community building. Students are welcome to join the discussion!

This is my session abstract for a talk I will be giving at Goldsmiths tomorrow titled Going beyond humanizing online learning: Creating a democratic platform for and with our students.

The session is discussion based, so I am hoping to tackle this complex topic with the participants on the day and also here on this blog prior and after the event. The motivation for this talk comes from my recent reflections on Parker J. Palmer and bell hooks. I’ve started to think increasingly about democracy in education and how we might achieve that in online settings. We talk a lot about humanizing online courses, making it a social experience for both teachers and students, but we don’t talk much about how that social space is organised; we don’t talk much about the politics of it. I see a strong need to focus on that, especially to critique and improve our institutional learning spaces.

Palmer (2011) says:

“If students are to be well served and are to serve democracy well, we need to invite them into a lived engagement with democracy’s core concepts and values. There are at least two ways to do this: by engaging students in democratic processes within the classroom and the school and by involving them in the political dynamics of the larger community.”

So what are democracy’s core concepts and values? Well, there is civic responsibility. There is this expectation that you will be “a productive, responsible, caring and contributing member of society.” Palmer mentions many ways to achieve this but what struck me was his argument on creating democratic habits of the heart – the qualities we need to be able to “listen with an open mind” and “respond respectfully”:

  1. We must understand that we are all in this together.
  2. We must develop an appreciation of the value of otherness.
  3. We must cultivate the ability to hold tension in life-giving ways. (This is about turning a seemingly negative event into something positive.)
  4. We must generate a sense of personal voice and agency.
  5. We must strengthen our capacity to create community.

But there is a problem I observe in online spaces: even the most democratic educator, the most caring instructor, can easily shift to quite authoritative teaching methods and ways of being online, if he/she has limited understanding of possibilities. It is not uncommon for instructors to use online spaces to ask students to do things (“submit your assignment,” “book a slot for your one-on-one,” “read this book,” etc.). Students are expected to do things in a space that is designed for them but not with them. The learning space becomes a space that reflects institutional choices and preferences and personal tastes of course designers (I once knew an instructor who had purple background on her site because she liked the color) more than a communal one.

One of the reasons why this shift happens is the heavy emphasis on content. It is so much easier to deliver content online than to build an active and supportive learning community. A learning community open and responsive to diverse voices… a learning community that welcomes students as a whole person to the environment – real people. The former requires resources and tools, the latter requires commitment and care beyond all content.

In the talk, I will propose that the first step to democracy, to creating democratic habits of the heart, is by enabling open structures in learning (I draw from bell hooks and Parker Palmer on this). An open educator:

  • makes the initial structures of working and/or studying explicit to students and open to discussion (imagine a teacher encouraging her students to comment on the syllabus, on the class activities and assignments);
  • co-constructs the structures of working and/or studying with students (imagine modifying the assignments with the help of students; imagine students co-constructing a code of conduct for their online interactions);
  • doesn’t confine education to a certain space and time (imagine learning “on the web and with the web,” with the public and for the public; imagine a teacher tweeting a resource to the class hashtag long after the course ends);
  • centers education around dialogue (imagine a teacher using conversations with students as content to work with).
  • recognizes the whole person in education (this is complex, but imagine a teacher making the emotional well-being of her students a priority, a lot more important than assessing in-class/for-class “performances.”)

Can our educational institutions be democratic when there is so much reliance on standardized tests, when we want to get accreditation for our programmes, when teachers have so much more power over their students on deciding how things should look like in the learning space, and how learning should be organized? How can we help students “practice real responsibility, real dialogue and real authority” (Palmer, 2011) despite institutional and curricular constraints? And how about the limitations of democracy as a system of governance? (Think about how the rule of majority can be a problem in educational settings.)

What do you think? Please join the discussion and let me know about your thoughts.

Posted in Uncategorized

Inclusion at Goldsmiths: what does it mean in practice? 

In his final blog for us, Barry Hayward offers some provocations based on his work as Goldsmiths’ Inclusion and Learning Support Manager and the recent discussion coming out of the Inclusion Working Group.  

Goldsmiths has embraced the inclusion agenda and it will be a key element of the Learning, Teaching and Assessment Strategy 2017-2021 (the Inclusive Curriculum will be one of the Strategic Aims).  It is increasingly important that we develop a Goldsmiths’ definition of what we mean by inclusion so that we all work in the same direction.  In disability terms, this means we need to clear about what we mean by accessibility.

Accessibility is about identifying all the barriers to learning faced by the whole range of disabled students. Once we are clear about the barriers, then we need to identify the structural changes required to address these barriers.

The progress made in widening awareness and understanding of reasonable adjustments is a good thing, but there is a tension with the inclusion agenda. Some staff are under the impression that making reasonable adjustments is creating an inclusive environment; whereas, in fact, individual adjustments just enable the inclusion of individuals one by one.

Reasonable adjustments can never lead to full inclusion, as by making adjustments we are treating each person in receipt of adjustments differently.

Full inclusion is about adopting an anticipatory approach to adjustments – we identify barriers and then remove them across the board, not just for individuals.


Some examples:

Individual adjustments

(only for disabled students)

Anticipatory adjustments

(applies to all students)

Allow disabled students to record lectures All lectures recorded using lecture capture technology
Video content has subtitles added when requested by Deaf student All video content is sub-titled
Certain disabled students can type exams Provide laptops for all exams
Hearing impaired student supported in seminars All seminar leaders trained to run inclusive seminars
Students with long-term illnesses allowed deadline adjustments A flexible approach to deadlines

This list is deliberately provocative to stimulate thinking. It can be argued that there will never be a “one size fits all” approach, as an inclusive methodology that accommodates the differing needs of all learners may never be possible (or be too resource-intensive to be viable).


What I would like to initiate, is a conversation within academic departments, on how more inclusive approaches might be introduced.  If ideas could be recorded and shared Goldsmiths could potentially be a sector leader.


Barry Hayward is leaving us to work for the disability service at King’s College London.

Posted in Inclusion, Op-ed

Learning and Teaching in a Digital Age: MOOCs, OERs and Innovation (Friday 24 March 2017)

This was an annual one-day event run by the Research in Distance Education (RIDE) exploring new directions and developments in distance education and technology-enhanced learning. The ‘Open’ thread running through many of the presentations brought to the fore the tension between fidelity to the original ethos of openness and the pressures for monetisation. In order to look at the sustainability of MOOCs and open education, it is worth giving some airspace to the morning keynote, Strategic Challenges for MOOCs today by Simon Nelson, the CEO of Futurelearn. And then to the afternoon panel on OERs.


Futurelearn is the social learning platform and first UK-based provider of massive open online courses (MOOCs), owned by the Open University. Simon Nelson could not have been clearer about the need for a sustainable business model for the platform and for the provision of MOOCs in general.

Reservations were voiced throughout the conference about marketization of the open model in FutureLearn’s approach but it’s fair to remember that Open University also offer Open Learn , a provider of free online courses and content.

Founded in 2012, FutureLearn are now a little way off from breaking even financially with a positive trajectory for 2017 onwards. The business model they are developing has more to do with a customer led flexible and customisable educational experience than open and free access to all. A range of upgrades and certification provide revenue. Currently ,they are exploring certified Continuing Professional Development short courses, fully online paid degrees (in business, management, teaching and digital skills) or transferable accreditation towards other degree awards. They are also introducing payment pathways into degrees offering free entry level and then pay-as-you-go modules.

Other kinds of access to MOOCs that are being developed include a blended model where existing MOOCs are embedded into traditional programmes (“bringing the world into the classroom”). In terms of professional development the ethos is to make learning easily accessible in the workplace, enabling professionals to benefit from a social and flexible learning experience where they can either interact with others at different levels across the world or work in closed groups with colleagues.

FutureLearn’s ‘build once use many times’ strategy for content is smart; you might develop content for an OER re-use for a short course and then as part of a degree. Another interesting move is to use the expertise of Alumni to help deliver some of the learning for current students, especially in workplace learning.

Universities thinking about a more flexible model of provision and to make the most of the learning resources produced by their experts may want to consider some of the strategies employed by FutureLearn. As their name suggests, this could be the direction of travel for Education! However, it’s clear that in order to secure a revenue stream through MOOCs, patience and creative thinking seem to be the key to success.

Open Educational Resources (OERs)

A panel discussion in the afternoon looked at OERs from a range of perspectives.

History of OERs
Vivien Rolfe (also presenting at OER17), proposed that OERs were nothing new. Indeed, European anatomical theatres that opened their practice to the public from 16th to 19th century were a form of open education. She also reminded us that in the 1970’s, open education was a core learning philosophy in primary school education in the United States.

The advent of Creative Commons licensing in the early 2000’s enabled content creators to release their material to a worldwide audience and to select the type of reuse restrictions they wanted to apply. The flourishing of CC content on Flickr, YouTube and WordPress, for example, bears witness to its success.

Despite the lack of investment, the OER scene is thriving. In US and Canada, Higher Education institutions are making entire student textbooks freely available online. OpenTextbook will be piloted in UK very soon.

In terms of dissemination of research and materials OER is a fruitful mechanism.  Analytics show that popular and useful resources are embedded into other institutions websites and VLEs and are being translated into numerous languages.

Embedding OER practice in HE context
Simon Thomson, Head of Digital Pedagogy at Leeds Beckett talked about Unicycle, an OER project which involved making 360 credits worth (the equivalent of 3600 hours) of learning materials locally and publically available. People from each school contributed. There were restrictions due to ethical considerations, for example, on some programmes. The resource documentation has now moved to the Jisc website:

There is no OER policy at Leeds Beckett but by embedding into all aspects of the university this becomes a sustainable exercise. Simon teaches OER as part of staff development on the PGCertificate and it is included in curriculum design.

Simon stressed that ‘open’ does not mean one thing. It is a continuum, with a range of practices across it. Some practitioners will only use open content whilst others make all their content available as OERs. Staff who are wary of the idea of OERs might be introduced to it by using OERs rather than producing it, or by using a mixture of open and non-open content. Students also need to understand the concept of openness as part of their digital literacy.

Participatory design model for productin of OER reusable learning objects
Heather Wharrad is responsible for Helm open a repository of Re-usable learning objects. These are short resources on particular areas of curriculum, ‘chunks of learning’. They were made through a participatory design principle with academics and practitioners involved in co-creation and peer review. The reason these were made was to give easy access to all students. Some excellent resources that could benefit a wide range of users were often hidden away on VLE pages and only seen by a minority. The impact of the project showed that the resources were widely used with a global reach. Public funding was used to develop the project and so Heather thought that the outputs should also be public.

Although now there are a large team of learning technologists and media specialists supporting the scheme, it started off small, using a teaching and learning grant to demonstrate value and how it linked scholarship, research and teaching.

Institutional support
In all three cases there was no institutional drive or support for their initiatives. Instead they started from the ground up and proved the value of OERs through research findings and analytics. Simon Thomson also said that he convinced his university that content is worthless. Content is everywhere nowadays and easily available for free.  It is the staff, students, the teaching, support and learning experience that are valuable.  How information and ideas are linked together and how they are understood is the cornerstone of teaching – not the bare content.

Finding relevant quality OERs
I thought about how my own research practice has changed in recent years. In the past I would look to subscription only journals which I could access via Shibboleth and so on. Now I tend to first of all search for freely available content. I will avoid searches behind paywalls or password protected catalogues unless there is something specific I desperately need. There are sometimes limitations, of course, in terms of the  quality of freely available content both academically and production-wise. It is here that the user needs to have the skills to be discerning.  Searching for quality Open content is an issue but can be navigated by using repositories recognised by learner communities such as:

  • Jisc app store
  • BBC – Research Education base
  • Merlot (not completely open)
  • Humbox (humanities)
  • Khan Academy

There are also discipline specific repositories that can be searched (under ‘Open’) which many of us may already use.

Mitigating risk
A last tip from the panel: although it is desirable to ensure accessibility, you may not always be in a position to do this with freely available content. If you are creating open resources it’s wise to include a disclaimer saying that you cannot guarantee 100% accessibility of all content (one university was heavily penalised for material not meeting accessibility guidelines). And there may be vulnerability in platforms. The advice is to put content onto 2 platforms so that you can mitigate for one disappearing.

If you want to follow up on any of this Audrey Watters is an excellent commentator on OERs. What do we mean by open education?

Tagged with: , , , , , ,
Posted in Conference Reports

Reflections on the upgrade

The upgrade plan was first circulated through LTEC in February 2016 and was passed.  The plan was to do three things:

Upgrade the version of Moodle and all of the plugins that work in Moodle.

For this reason: This needs to be done every year.  Moodle has regular updates to keep it secure and to improve the way it works.  The build of Moodle that we have at Goldsmiths uses extra functions called plugins and those also need to be upgraded to work with the new version of Moodle.

Standardise the way that modules are named in

Every year in September and October and often well into November, TaLIC fielded high numbers of queries from students who did not know how to find their course materials in the VLE.  The students would use one name, tutors another and the area something different that came from a legacy course area that had been reset year on year.  Sometimes we were able to find the course but on more than one occasion we completely drew a blank and had to send the student and even sometimes tutor back to the department.  We were aware that there is a centralised area where Module data is kept so we used that source and auto-generated course areas from the module code, module title and academic year.

We were aware that there are some modules that share the same code for different cohorts of students but it was difficult to get clear information from departments about what was required so we generated the areas and asked people to provide corrections that were done in a very fast turnaround.

Advantages: it is easy to know if you are in a module  area for the current academic year because the year is part of the name of the module: AB123456 Title of Module (2016-17).      The year is also used in what is called the “shortname” This name uniquely identifies the course area in Moodle.




Change the way we archive content

Replace the existing archive server which required a login to a different server.

For this reason:
Accessing archived materials was only possible as long as the server was functioning.  The old plan meant that the build of Moodle would stay static on the archive server.  The way this was maintained meant that this build was frozen and not updated.  This then caused issues with the servers themselves as they require updating to protect them against malicious attacks and hardware failures.  There was a disk failure on an older version of the archive and as we had increasing requests to access archived content, we decided the best thing was to keep the archive with the current content in a separate and clearly delineated area  (see attached images).



The future:
This is part of a project that will eventually mean can serve content that is pertinent to the user when they log in: assessment deadlines, marking deadlines etc.  There will still be areas that do not change year on year and they will persist.  This is going to be a staged process.

Posted in Moodle, On-going projects, Support, Technology, Training and Support

Goldsmiths’ HEA accreditation – news from the pilot year



In July 2016, Goldsmiths successfully re-accredited its PG Certificate route with the Higher Education Academy (HEA).  The opportunity was also taken at this point to develop an accredited experiential route which might better suit the needs of experienced staff.

The double success was celebrated on 7th September and our first HEA event took place in the convivial surroundings of the Deptford Town Hall Council Chamber, where a select group of staff also shared their experiences of submitting claims for recognition as Senior Fellows of the HEA and celebrated Goldsmiths’ success.  Under the re-accredited scheme, the existing taught PG offer will continue to count as a means by which staff qualify as Fellows and Associate Fellows of the HEA.  This time, however, TaLIC also submitted an application which conferred Fellowship recognition powers on Goldsmiths.  As a result, we are now able to offer an internal experiential route towards HEA Fellowship in addition to the existing taught routes, so that experienced staff (with a sufficient body of experience), who might wish to avail themselves, now have the opportunity to go for recognition.

In sum, we now have a rounded package of routes towards Fellowship status for new academic staff and those more experienced, as well as routes for researchers, library staff, careers and other professional services staff.  In these instances, staff undergo an experience that is comparable with the direct-to-HEA scheme, but which supports staff in a developmental way, enabling them to use staff development opportunities to fill gaps in their CVs, and supporting them so as to meet the required standard at the first opportunity.

Taken together, the two routes (both taught and experiential) offer the means by which staff might gain recognition for the excellence of their work supporting teaching and learning in a portable and externally validated way, and which supports Goldsmiths in its claims for teaching excellence.

The scheme is in its pilot stages during the current academic year, and will roll-out into widespread use at the beginning of 2017-18. Currently, a cohort of 10 prospective Senior Fellows are making their way through the process with a submission date scheduled around Easter, and they will be sharing their feedback about their experience with the Goldsmiths’ team.  The second stage of the pilot will begin in March and these staff will be presenting themselves for accreditation at the internal Panel, currently scheduled for later in the summer term.


Posted in Accreditation, News, On-going projects