About goldsmithspete

By day I work as E-Learning Systems Manager at Goldsmiths University of London in TaLIC, by night I do electronic music, cooking and gardening with the help of a particularly annoying cat, but not necessarily in that order.

Engagement and monitoring – M25 winter meeting

On Tuesday 7 December, the winter meeting of the M25 ALT group took place via Zoom with the broad theme of monitoring and engagement, everything from proctoring through to wellbeing, defining what we mean by engagement and the ethical justification for monitoring.

Interesting to see how ‘check ins’ are being widely used. Just asking students ‘how are you’? These can be done in a variety of ways, via a VLE or even a poll at the start of a live session. Matt Jenner demo’d a potential way to enable this via a ‘no code’ web app development platform.

Lots of thought-provoking stuff as usual, but I was particularly interested in the item on feedback from Leonard Houx and Annora Eyt-Dessus from City’s Business School which drew on their experience in learning design and mentioned this new research on approach goals from Sims, Outhwaite and Bennett. The TaLIC team here at Goldsmiths had been having a conversation about retention and motivation earlier in the day – so this was all quite timely. The theory around achievement goals and the difference between mastery and performance goals is clearly something I need to read up on – possibly starting with this work of Hoyert and O’Dell.

Students’ judgement of what is good for their learning is often wrong (eg: writing what you know is more effective than repeated reading – but students prefer the latter approach). Feedback can correct this. Other useful takeaways – present knowledge gaps but not chasms and motivate with regular feedback, be it automated, peer or from a teacher. Provide walkthroughs of how you would solve the problem, vary the difficulty (differentiation) and provide definitions of vocabulary.

So in a nutshell –

Is your teaching too difficult to follow?
Are your students getting enough feedback?


Collaborating on module design using ABC via Teams

You may be familiar with UCL’s ABC workshops for rapid module and curriculum design. They’re an engaging and effective way to redesign a course or map one out from scratch. It’s based on Diana Laurillard’s conversational framework and uses cards to map out the learning journey of the student.

However, given the current situation, it isn’t feasible getting a module team to sit around a table and write on cards.

There are ways to do this online and something we’ve tried at Goldsmiths is using Teams and the built-in ‘planner’. A planner is a series of columns (called buckets for some reason) into which you can add task cards. With a little bit of tweaking you can make this look a little like the ABC cards.

Here’s a video that explains the approach:

There’s more here about ABC learning design from UCL

UCL’s ABC Seminar (14 June 2019)

I took myself and my impressive migraine along to UCL last week, hoping I’d be able to string a sentence together by the time I was up to speak. I used to work in their building in Torrington Place, so it was interesting to see how it had been refitted since my days. It’s also interesting at these events to see the different ‘brands’ in the Powerpoints, have to say I think the Goldsmiths one looks pretty good.



I digress.

The theme of the day was how people had taken UCL’s ABC approach and adapted it for their situation.

I first discovered the cards around 18 months ago when I received a pile of them from FutureLearn, then after attending an ABC workshop at UCL in 2018 I was a convert. We use them for MOOCs and are trying to roll out their use more widely. My colleage Mark created a set of ‘Goldsmiths’ cards and we have a simple A4 list of tools that support the different types of learning (we bring that out later).

At the event, Gill Ritchie from QMUL spoke about how they used it with their Academic Practice module, which has a similar aim to what we do at Goldsmiths. We run a PG Cert in Learning and Teaching in Higher Education and we thought it would be interesting to see if we could create a 60 minute ‘mini ABC’ session. The PG Cert is available to anyone with a teaching role and students tend to be early career academics spread across departments. It would therefore be a great way to spread the word about ABC. They’re also a pretty smart bunch, so we wanted to make sure we weren’t wasting their time.

We decided to get them to create a fictitious, short course. The programme lead, Mary Claire Halvorson, came up with the inspired idea of a critical thinking course, something which was relevant across all departments and would get people talking.

We decided to compress the session down to 60 minutes, we showed them the Diana Laurillard video (shown below) and gave them a three minute lightning tour of ABC with a couple of examples on screen.

We then let them loose on their task.

Title: An introduction to critical thinking

  • Imaginary stand-alone course
  • 2 weeks – 4 hours a week
  • Face to face, online or a blend of the two (your choice)


  • To provide an overview of critical thinking
  • To provide students with opportunities to practise critical thinking

We compressed the timings of the exercise as follows:

  • Module tweet size description (5 mins)
  • Fill in the 2 graphs (5 mins)
  • Arrange the cards as sequences for each week (10 mins)
  • Turn over cards and fill in details / tweak the order (15 mins)
  • Identify assessment activities (5 mins)
  • Redraw the graphs & take a photo (5 mins
  • Pitch your design (2 minutes each)

Much to my relief, it was a roaring success! You could tell by the volume in the room that it was working.

After the session we put the finished designs on learn.gold.

A selection of ABC cards arranged on a table

ABC Cards


My colleague Mark and I were invited to re-run the exercise for our academic practice module. This is where we learned a valuable lesson – furniture. We didn’t realise the room had no tables, however the students improvised and sat on the floor and it still worked well.

Talking of lessons learned,  a few of the other speakers spoke of the need to have pre-ABC and post-ABC workshops, particularly where the learning outcomes are unclear or need revisiting – and that’s something we’ve found on occasions.

Converting the ABC cards to electronic forms was discussed, with some institutions using Excel. At Goldsmiths I created a Trello board to enable this. Trello is a web-based, light-touch project management system where you have cards arranged in columns. You can move them around, add text to them etc. It’s basically the ABC in vertical columns instead of horizontal rows.

Here’s the template:

Trello cards arranged in columns

An ABC template in Trello

The idea is people copy items from the ‘card deck’ and drag them to different columns as needed. Digital artefacts (images, docs) can be attached to cards so it’s a useful way to carry on designing and tweaking collaboratively.  I’ll share this (when I’ve worked out the best way to do it).

One thing I particularly liked was Clare Gormley’s presentation from Dublin City University. She outlined how they had mapped aspects of ABC to various institutional strategies, something I think we’ll try here at Goldsmiths.

All in all, an interesting and useful day and good to see colleagues from previous institutions I’ve worked at – hello UCL, UWL and SGUL! Thanks to Clive, Nataša, Janice and everyone concerned.

(Still have the migraine by the way).


Any technology is education technology – or is it?

I recently attended the M25 ALT meeting over at Imperial College in London which looked at those peripheral technologies that people are using – things not obviously designed to be ‘ed tech’. There was some lively debate.

You can read all about it on this collaboratively edited blog post: Any technology is education technology?

There was also a tour of some of the teaching spaces which had been refitted to make them more flexible – some pictures below:


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