Reflective formative spaces moulded around course pedagogy

Using Campus Pack Learning Objects

With a bit of imagination and clear idea of a course’s pedagogic remit, building learning spaces around specific learning outcomes is a breeze using Campus Pack Learning Objects. The trick behind this ease of flexibility is getting under the hood and changing a few settings according to the type of interactivity desired. For example, a tutorial blog can allow the tutor to post up notes (and any relevant media) that feed forward (Murtagh and Baker, 2009). These face2face one2one tutorials are normally given with a laptop to hand, notes are taken by the tutor and posted up, students respond with the comments tool by a certain period (if requested). The benefits to this method mean tutorial notes are held centrally and online; act as an aide memoire to both tutor and student of what was discussed; allows the student to reflect and articulate how they intend to take their work forward; provides a recording mechanism which is useful when several tutors are giving feedback over the course of a project. Additional support staff (study development tutors/disability tutors) can also access the feedback first-hand and discuss this with the student, often contributing with posts so feedback is collective and everyone is on the same page. Thus, taking a heutagogic approach consistent with Bandura’s (1986) conceptualisation of self-regulation, involving self observation, self-evaluation, and self-reaction, learning is student centric and self disciplined.

Presentation given at Durham’s Blackboard User Conference 2015 demonstrating Unit Feedback, Tutorial Log, Personal Development and Work Placement Blog learning spaces.

By integrating the student’s private feedback areas within the university’s virtual learning environment (VLE), staff and students can access a ‘trail’ of feedback – all in one place thus ensuring students and all the teaching support teams have 24/7 remote access. This student-centred place also becomes a deeper space for autonomous learning and continuing dialogue between students and staff, thus creating an ‘inside-out’ (Higgins, Hartley and Skelton, 2001) approach to assessment feedback, which embraces reflection, criticality and student ownership to learning.

Reflective formative spaces moulded around course pedagogy

WHO BENEFITS: Reflective formative spaces moulded around course pedagogy

Alongside benefits to the student, university and course team – as shown above, this learning and teaching intervention has greatly increased student satisfaction at UCA. Students’ perspective of course organisation and management has greatly improved and administration time along with costs has significantly reduced. See above slideshare which illustrates improvements to UCA’s NSS figures.

Campus Pack may not be the most sophisticated piece of technology, but it is certainly cost effective and adequate for courses wishing to adapt and flex learning activities/spaces and deliver a far richer model of teaching, learning and assessment.

Higgins, R., Hartley, P. and Skelton, A. (2001) Getting the message across: the problem of communicating assessment feedback. Teaching in Higher Education 6(2): 269–274

Murtagh, L. and Baker, N. (2009) Feedback to Feed Forward: student response to tutors’ written comments on assignments. Practitioner Research in Higher Education Vol 3 (1): page 20-28

Bandura, A. (1986) Social Foundations of Thought and Action: A social cognitive theory. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall.


GLAD Conference 2014 – my thoughts

What is GLAD…? 

Group for Learning in Art and Design 

For those of you who don’t know about GLAD, it was established in 1990 as a grass roots network to improve student experience and stimulate debate in art and design education. This year’s conference theme looked at the studio and what it means to a student in 2014.

So, leaving Maidstone on a 6.25am train (destination Sheffield Hallam University) and retuning home at 9.30pm, we had a very packed day. Along with my co-presenter and work colleague Annamarie Mckie, we presented a poster session entitled a place of my own: reflective, formative online spaces for learning, teaching and assessment.

The poster displays the 3 main stakeholders and the benefits each stand to gain from using an innovative online space within the VLE that tutors can place formative feedback and students can respond. Click on the image below for a larger version – so you can read more about what these benefits are.


See poster above and here’s the background and case study.

The Keynote address – Revisionism v Chaos; The Studio Terroir was delivered by Professor Paul Haywood, Deputy Dean at Middlesex University. I found this talk to be the most inspiring part of the conference. Paul spoke and how a child learns by experience as construct but then is taught from parents etc. how things should look and gave painting as an example. He then took this theory into the artist’s studio and how ‘learning to paint’ has evolved through the centuries. He spoke of the moulded child/artist as being an inhibitor through construct – and does our current model of teaching foster a true creative process. His presentation displayed rich imagery and the red house struck a cord.

The second keynote – Open and Connected Classroom : A Show and Tell Presentation was delivered by Jonathan Worth, a photographer and teaching fellow at Coventry University. He spoke about the power of the virtual world and how someone’s images can be credible, believed and authoritative – or not as the case may be. His work with students explored questions about the benefits of the internet and the power of people connected together regardless of experience or qualification and how this has made a transformative impact on everyone’s lives. It led me to think about social boundaries and the absence of them in the virtual world – one example being the QuizUp app where you find yourself playing with someone in Texas (anywhere in fact) but complete strangers and people having ability to demand a rematch should you beat them, and if that’s not enough a chat tool and discussion board should you want to go deeper with making connections.

In terms of the planned workshops and presentations, the first focused around the technical studio and modes of student learning. I’ve highlighted the key aspects below:

  1. One day un-assessed workshops so students can learn freely and make mistakes – the notion of not being assessed opens a debate about the freedom to explore/experiment without the fear of being penalised.
  2. Google maps used as an icebreaker (for a digital literacy workshop) to see where students are located (even 2nd years)
  3. Pinterest used as collaborative boards to share visual dialogue and output.
  4. How students perceive feedback was another hot topic as some feared technical feedback, which students often sought and valued was not considered by students in the NSS.
  5. Helen Makin from Coventry University stated the delivery of making skills comes no longer comes from academic staff but from technical staff. The attitude from some sees the quality of making is a lesser skill to the conceptual skill. Consequently, technical staff feel somewhat short-changed and under valued – and I can fully sympathise here knowing what they are paid compared to academics.
  6. Students not turning up to workshops was another common problem, but as paying customers they expected workshops on demand and often one-to-one if they missed the planned session.
  7. Technical staff felt they needed more integration with project briefs in order to tailor and maximise learning outcomes – they saw themselves ‘working too much in the dark’,

The afternoon workshop explored the meaning of failing and how this relates to the studio space. In groups, we were asked to write a manifesto, this is our group’s offering:


‘The studio and how to fail in it”

  1. The studio is not destination transition
  2. Celebrate failure with less assessment and more scrutiny
  3. Failure is linked to a learning outcome
  4. Less prescription – allow some privacy
  5. Failure is contingent – students need to know this

Social networking – technologies with the most promise for educational application

Social networking technologies are not the panacea for all education methods and do not replace traditional face-to-face teaching/learning, but they do provide an additional format to work together and engage learners who might otherwise not be interested (Johnson & Dyer 2006).

These technologies work on a number of levels, for example Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn promote the notion of connecting people and sharing information whereas YouTube, Flickr and Slideshare are more geared towards offering different ways to express ideas and share information. Then we have blogs and wikis that can mash much of this media together so that it represents a digital storyboard of expression (Chin 2006). Such storyboards allow for multiple authorship viewable privately or publically with the additional ability to comment on entries.

My own experience of using social networking tools in education extends to belonging to a Twitter network of people with an interest in elearning and educational technologies so that we can share and recommend interesting information, in other words act as a filtering service and share with our network what we think is worth reading. With LinkedIn, the medium is less powerful and it consists of a directory of career profiles and who-knows-who. Each profile is self-made requiring no validation – but the fact it is pubic will deter most honest folk from telling porkies. LinkedIn requires no premise to activity engage in any type of dialogue, many entries are dated, as the network is just another space to promote yourself and stay connected.

I have worked on a number of student projects using the Campus Pack collaboration tools, which integrate into Blackboard’s courses well and sync into the cohort’s roster including instructors. These blogs and wikis are extremely simple for people without technical know-how to create, they also empower faculty to tailor learning activities according to intended outcomes. Settings (individual/group, private/open, comments, deletion, history, etc.) can be easily applied and modified. The assessment report (see image below) details the level of engagement from each learner and the overall contribution made in the wiki – as illustrated below. This bespoke set of tools sets it apart from free blogging tools and wikis such as wordpress, blogger, google wikis etc. as they do not have this kind of educational reporting ability.

Campus Pack wiki assessment report from a group activity

Campus Pack wiki assessment report from a group activity

This wiki assessment report shows the activity of 4-second year degree students studying a specific unit on a (face2face) Fashion Promotion course. The unit (worth 30 credits) has an expectation of 300 learning hours, its aims:

  1. To understand the importance of the moving image as a promotional tool.
  2. To develop an understanding of how fashion designer brands are promoted.
  3. To build on existing promotional techniques and research skills by promoting a fashion designer through visual imagery.
  4. To respond intellectually and target a campaign to a specific market.
  5. To be proactive in working in a creative team and taking an increased responsibility in your own learning.
  6. To effectively and clearly communicate ideas within a team and to others.

The wiki allowed learners plan and document their research and organise their planning for the final output. This central space allowed everyone to pitch in with ideas and the format allowed people’s individual strengths to shine through. The task of assessment with such a group project (there were 22 wikis/groups in total) makes the process far more flexible and manageable. Having the online environment as institutionally owned also makes the logistical issues such as IP and privacy a far safer experience for everyone (Cook & Light 2006).

So for me, I think the wiki has the most mileage and promise for education and that makes me think of McLuhan’s mantra The Medium is the Message (or Mass Age) which then opens up another new debate about how the symbiotic relationship between the medium and message, and its influences into how this wiki storyboard is perceived – the product of co-creation is almost more enchanting than the final output (the film in this case).

There are, of course a thousand other reasons to support online co-created activities using wikis (inclusiveness, adaptability, flexibility, ownership, empowerment, accessible) and this is just a few!


Johnson, J. and Dyer, J. (2006) ‘User-defined content in a constructivist learning environment’ [online], elearning papers,

Marshall McLuhan

Cook, J. and Light, A. (2006) ‘New patterns of power and participation? Designing ICT for informal and community learning’, E-learning, vol.3, no.1, pp.51–61; also available online at

Chin, P. (2006) The Value of User-Generated Content, Intranet Journal, (part 1) 

H809 so far

Turkish highways

It’s tough and there is a whole set of new terminology to learn besides feeling a little out of my depth.

Perhaps the hardest challenge is the papers, reading the first few made no sense but reading them again you sort of get the idea of what they are trying to say.

I liked the idea of just using 5 papers for reference for the TMA, this made me go back to them several times and squeeze a bit more. It also helped control that swamped with papers and quotes feeling. This is my second course on the OU and it’s interesting to see how different this is to H808… Far more is focused around research papers and being selective about them.

The refworks thing is slowly getting there but the hardest job I have is finding my way around the OU Library. I don’t think I’ve spent enough time really getting to grips with it; to me it’s all a bit of a muddle. I’m going to try out their Safari work-through tutorial to see if this makes a difference. It recommends a minimum of 10 hours to do all 7 sections. I’ll report back with my findings. I’ll try doing a section in my lunch hour which might be better than doing it at the weekends which are normally reserved for the H809 activities.

I expect for the experienced researcher, finding stuff is fast and easy. Still, I’m leaning lots and new doors are being opened so all the hard work is paying off. Learning loads from my cohort and the range of discussions in all three groups are the richest source of peer learning I’ve come across, so I’m totally converted and I have the guys to thank:)

It’s such a relief to get the first TMA out-of-the-way. I’m excited by my proposal, will be interesting to see what Rhona makes of it – and how doable it is.

The sun’s out now, so time to pack away the laptop and get a life again!

H809 – 3 weeks in

So far the course is teaching many new areas that were previously a mystery. Things such as academic search engines, citation tools and the number of cited references a paper has…! which Atholl has rightly pointed out as a serious issue for academics in England as citations and “impact” will be used in the REF, the new system for assessing the quality of research in UK higher education institutions that replaces the previous RAE.

It seems HEFCE will use the REF results to allocate funding – which is judged by its value based on given citation. This is a worrying factor as surely the value of the written paper should be marked on its own merits and any citation be a secondary factor. I’m also wondering if certain references are not present, the funding bids won’t even get a look in – nevermind a read.

I have to thank Jane B, Alessando and Deirdre for explaining why I couldn’t find any reference to the Wegerif Mercer paper, it was driving me mad – having never used ISI WOK, Google Scholar, Refworks or not really understanding what any of them do. What I can say is that after having set the Google Scholar preferences to use the OU Library and RefWorks, it will make life easier from now on – I’m a great Google fan and love its simplicity.

I’m not too sure about this RefWorks citation tool, I’ll try it out and see how it goes. I also have to confess to ‘not knowingly’ using academic search engines before – despite doing H808 before this.

So to me, all these clever H809 people have heaps of stuff I can learn from and by reading the forums, I learnt loads already.

Reflection & learning

Some of the reflective exercises I could relate to, some not. In fact some went way over my head but that’s academic writing for you – it’s not clear or straight forward – always has a twist, take David Kolb (1984) and his cycle… with words that have different meanings, luckily I could just about relate to:

  • Concrete experiencing
  • Reflective observation
  • Abstract conceptualising
  • Active experimentation

But can far better relate to:

  • Have an experience  (Concrete experiencing)
  • Reflect on the experience – (Reflective observation)
  • Learn from Experience – (Abstract conceptualising)
  • Try out what you have learned – (Active Experimentation)

It’s just a question of using good old plain English – note the emotion here reflecting back on Moon’s PDP working paper.

But there, enough moaning – some of the things did indeed ring true with how I approach and deal with this course work and my work practices. I have to admit there’s far more reading on this course, so methods of learning is rather exhausting, whereas my work practice requires thinking through things or problem solving, finding smarter ways of doing things and not necessary writing down the ideas. This thinking happens as a reflective process – going over a problem in your mind, thinking about various solutions – and then, Bingo I find an answer, often when driving to work.

I think Moon’s point about using different disciplines being suited to different kinds of reflective activity doesn’t go far enough with the range of practices listed. I believe there are limitless ways, in which reflective practice can be applied, with new tools being developed as we speak – take iphone apps as an example.

Many of the students at my University have dyslexia and find the writing process painful, boring and frankly a waste of time and to be honest, many staff feel the same way. They maintain reflective learning is constant throughout the curriculum.

However students love making video journals, or podcasts, or picture journals with words, so perhaps what I’m trying to say is for some students it would indeed be counter productive to force them into making written reflective accounts of their learning… More creative ways are needed or indeed should be encouraged.

I believe there should be more choice so learners can decide which medium they wish to use to reflect on their learning. A picture paints a thousand words – perhaps if the learner were to paint the picture first and choose 10 words (from a bag of 200) to describe how they felt and what they learnt from the process it would be another way to get engagement. The students themselves should also be asked how they could best reflect their learning. Perhaps they could surprise us.