Archive for the ‘General’ Category

Distance education

Wednesday, May 19th, 2021




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I read an interesting article by Sanjaya Mishra on distance education, who argues that distance education is important in terms of improving access and equity and can be used to support teaching and learning at all levels. Desmond suggests there are five characteristics:


  • Quasi-permanent separation of teacher and learner in the learning process
  • Influence of an educational organisation in planning, designing, and delivering of learning resources and opportunities
  • Predominant use of technical media for delivery of learning content
  • Provision of two-way communication between student and teacher, and student and student
  • Quasi-permanent absence of learning groups


Some of the benefits of distance education include: being able to fit learning round other commitments, being able to choose when and where to study, and distance learning courses are often cheaper than full time degrees.


Fidalgo et al. (2020) argue that most institutions now offer some form of distance education. This article argues that distance education offers greater flexibility and freedom for both students and teachers, however it requires higher degrees of discipline and planning to successful complete a course of study. A top benefit of distance education is its flexibility; students can choose when, where, and how they learn by selecting the time, place, and medium for their education. Video conferencing enables access to the teacher. Disadvantages can include: a sense of isolation, the struggle of staying motivated, lack of face-to-face interaction, difficulty in getting immediate feedback, the need for constant and reliable access to technology, and occasionally some difficulty with accreditation.


This article lists advantages and disadvantages of distance education as follows. Advantages:  ability to combine work with existing commitments, cheaper, no deadlines, less pressure, no set start date, the student can decide the time and place of study, the student can achieve a degree from anywhere in the world. Disadvantages:   requires self-motivation, lack of face-to-face time in virtual learning, no immediate feedback, distance learning must be accredited, does not give students the opportunity to work on oral communication skills, does not always offer all the necessary courses online, and requires the student to have constant, reliable access to technology.







Fidalgo, P., Thormann, J., Kulyk, O. et al. Students’ perceptions on distance education: A multinational study. Int J Educ Technol High Educ 17, 18 (2020).


Learning design

Tuesday, May 18th, 2021




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Teachers sharing their practice is one of the key ways in which they develop and improve their ideas. Dalziel et al. (2016) argue that technology could provide “new ways to share great teaching ideas” in the form of learning designs. A learning design is a representation of what happens in a teaching and learning session to help learners achieve specified learning outcomes. I have defined learning design as:


A methodology for enabling teachers/designers to make more informed decisions in how they go about designing learning activities and interventions, which is pedagogically informed and makes effective use of appropriate resources and technologies. This includes the design of resources and individual learning activities right up to curriculum-level design. A key principle is to help make the design process more explicit and shareable. Learning design as an area of research and development includes both gathering evidence to understand the design process, as well as the development of a range of resources, tools and activities.


I’ve also stated (Conole and Wills, 2013) that:


Most teachers’ design practice is implicit and practice based, focusing primarily on discipline content. In recent years, a number of visual design representations have emerged that help guide teachers’ design practice, enabling them to create explicit designs, which can then be shared and discussed with others. These design representations help guide the design process and help teachers to think beyond content to the learning activities the learners will be engaged with and the ultimate learner experience.


This post argues that the following aspects need to be considered:


1.     What does the learner need to know by the end of the learning experience?

2.     How will the learning occur (offline, online or a bit of both)?

3.     How will the instructor interact with the learner?

4.     How will the learner be assessed?

5.     How can we capture data to reflect on the learning?


Conole, G. and Wills, S (2013), Representing learning designs – making design explicit and shareable, Educational media international, Volume 50, Issue 1.


Conole, G. (2013) Designing for learning in an open world. Springer: New York, NY. DOI:  

Dalziel, J., Conole, G., Wills, S., Walker, S., Bennett, S., Dobozy, E., & Bower, M. (2016), Journal of interactive media in education the larnaca declaration on learning design. Journal of Interactive Media in Education2016(7), 1–24. 

Digital innovation

Friday, May 14th, 2021



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Digital innovation is the application of new technologies to existing business problems and practice. This is due to a number of factors: access to high speed internet and smart mobile devices, the internet of things (IoT), Artificial Intelligence (AI), Blockchain, and Quantum Computing. Green and Hannon argues that technologies are now fully integrated into today’s younger generation; hey have grown up in a world of computers and the internet. Users can be categorised as follows:


·      Digital pioneers who were blogging before the phrase had been coined

·      Creative producers who are building websites, posting movies, photos and music to share with friends, family and beyond

·      Everyday communicators are making their lives easier through texting and MSN

·      Information gatherers are Google and Wikipedia addicts, ‘cutting and pasting’ as a way of life


Key characteristics include: networking, collaboration, co-production and participation. They see technologies as a tool to make their lives easier. There is a shift from a manufacturing to a knowledge-based economy and as a result the skills that young people need are changing. From the 1950s onwards jobs in the UK have shifted from production of agricultural and manufactured goods to the production of increasingly sophisticated services and gathering of information. The main ingredient in these services is now knowledge. This shift means that we are beginning to re-evaluate the kinds of skills and competencies that people, organisations and institutions need to thrive and flourish.


Whilst literacy and numeracy as still important, employers are increasingly looking for other skills, such as: creativity, ideas generation, presentation, leadership, team building and self-confidence. The pandemic has increased the use of technologies in education, however many teachers (and students) lack the necessary skills to make effective use of technology (PWC). The digital marketing institute argues that: As the educational sector becomes more competitive, digital transformation is now becoming a necessary means of survival as this new digital world requires educators to adapt and adopt digital technologies, methodologies and mindsets. Challenges to digital transformation include: a reluctance to adapt, inferior knowledge or skills, data silos, a lack of direction or strategy, and system based compatibility. Strategies to address these include: developing a strategy, hire, train and invest in skills, integrate and utilise digital data, automate, embrace the power of mobile, experiment with emerging technologies, and focus on digital citizenship.

The European Commission published a report “Resetting education and training for the digital age”. It outlined how the EU can help individuals, educational institutions and education systems to better adapt for life and work in an age of rapid digital change by:

  • making better use of digital technology for teaching and learning
  • developing relevant digital competences and skills for the digital transformation
  • improving education through better data analysis and foresight
  • strengthening European identity through education and culture
  • fostering the development of a high-performing digital education ecosystem
  • enhancing digital skills and competences for the digital transformation

EHL Insights cites a number of challenges with digital transformation: people are used to the status quo, generally there is a lack of clear strategy or direction for digital adoption, incomplete knowledge of the skills needed to achieve meaningful digital adoption, unclear data pictures for institutions, and existing systems not being used in an integrated way.

To conclude, so whilst clearly digital technologies have the potential to innovate learning and teaching there are many challenges to their effective uptake and use



Digital marketing institute,


EHL Insights,



European Commission,



Green, H. and Hannon, C. , Their space – education for the digital generation








Friday, May 14th, 2021



EDEN (European Distance E-learning Network) provides a useful set of resources and events for learning and teaching. The president states that EDEN’s motto is “smart network for the professional community and professional community for smart learning. The European Journal of Open, Distance and E-Learning is the network’s journal. A series of new webinars have just been announced: developing teaching and learning opportunities and facilities in children care, sharing and collaborating our way out of the storm, changing assessment due to COVID-19 experiences and impact, time for actions shaping HE 4.0, and No.1 – learning design in the eye of the storm. There is also a forthcoming conference: lessons from the pandemic for the future of education.

The importance of technology in education

Friday, May 14th, 2021


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The importance of technology in education


The online business school argues that:


“The evolution of technology has impacted every aspect of our lives from banking to the way that we communicate with each other. In fact, technology has become an integral part of sustaining society, and its infusion with education is therefore inevitable. Technology not only provides students with access to countless online resources, but also aids them in the learning process. A majority of universities and educational institutes have already started to utilise technology within their teaching methods”.


It goes on to state that:


Students are often bombarded with information in a classroom, which they must quickly attempt to process and make sense of. However, this can leave them feeling overwhelmed and confused by concepts. Technology provides students with access to countless online resources, encouraging them to carry out research and therefore become more independent. It also simplifies learning by making concepts more digestible, for example through an instructional video. It is important to recognise that there are various learning styles and traditional education may not be catering to them all.


There are a number of advantages of technology:


·       The ease of use and accessibility of technologies can impact and benefit both students and teachers. Teachers can set quizzes and provide instant feedback. Students have access to a rich setoff resources related to their subject area and can communicate with teachers and others students in a variety of ways. Technologies enable students to gain qualifications online.


Theamegroup lists six examples of the ways in which technologies are changing education:


·      Virtual Reality - With VR, students can learn via interacting with a 3D world. 

·      Artificial intelligence and machine learning – which can automate key activities such as grading of subjects and providing feedback on areas that need improvement. It can also be used to enhance personalised learning.

·      Cloud computing - resources such as written lessons, audio lessons, videos, and video assignments can be stored on a school’s cloud terminal. Students can access these resources from their homes and complete and submit the assignments back to their tutors.

·      3D printing – particular in engineering and systems design. They take concepts and make them real.

·      Social media – universities and collages can connect with each other through social networking sites.

·      Use of biometrics – can help to streamline education and enhance discipline. Examples include: facial recognition, fingerprints, voice recognition, and eye tracking. Teachers can use eye tracking methods to monitor how students are absorbing content that they have been taught.


·      StanfordCEPA suggest that:


Technological innovations are having a significant impact on educational systems at all levels. Online courses, teaching aids, educational software, social networking tools, and other emerging technologies are disrupting the traditional classroom environment. lists the following examples of innovative technology in education:


·      Slideshow presentations with multimedia

·      Use of podcasts

·      Taking students on a virtual tour

·      Keeping class schedules online

·      Using virtual manipulatives – for example reinforcing mathematical concepts with virtual manipulatives allow students to in understanding complex concepts. 

·      Using videos in teaching

·      Using social media – for example encouraging students to use a class hashtag to encourage students to tweet their inquiries, academic doubts, homework, presentations etc.

·      Video feedback, quizzes and surveys – for example providing personalised feedback on a student’s work or enabling students to give peer feedback. Encourage students to create forms, quiz, and polls related to your academic activities with a tool like Google Forms.

·      Gamification - Teachers can ask students to form pairs or groups and encourage them to collaborate with each other while learning by playing. Or encouraging teamwork among students.

·      Social groups - bringing social media into the curriculum is an innovative ways to use technology in the classroom. Teachers can connect students to curriculum, classroom resources, and one another. 

·      Corporate training - easily and clearly articulates and share useful information via videos.



Friday, May 14th, 2021


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Understanding how to engage with digital technologies and develop digital competencies is a critical skill that students need to develop. ProjectEvolve is founded on the UKCIS/DCMS “Education for a Connected World” competency framework. It offers engaging and focussed activities written by leading experts to engage and inform children and young people around important steps forward in their online development. The areas covered for primary schools are:


  • Self-image and identity
  • Online Relationships
  • Online Bullying
  • Heath Wellbeing & Lifestyle
  • Privacy & Security
  • Copyright and Ownership
  • Managing Online Information


Eight strands are articulated for secondary schools, sixth forms and further education:


  • Self-image and identity
  • Online Relationships
  • Online Bullying
  • Heath Wellbeing & Lifestyle
  • Privacy & Security
  • Copyright and Ownership
  • Managing Online Information

The UK safer Internet centre states that: “In the age of technology, we have a responsibility to keep up with all the advances from an education point of view”. Going on to state that “Our online lives can shape a lot of our behaviours that can mould the way we think and determine how we tackle challenges”.

Teaching and learning with technology

Thursday, May 13th, 2021




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Technologies are now an integral part of our lives and have the potential to enrich our students’ learning experiences. The use of technology in teaching and learning has always been an area surrounded by genuine promise, over enthusiastic claims, natural scepticism, and mild to serious apprehension (Smyth and Mainka, 2010). Smyth and Mainka cite the following myths associated with using technology: technology means getting rid of tutors, tutors need to be really skilled in IT to make good use of educational technology, students who are IT literate will be able to use educational technology effectively, all students need to collaborate online is access to a discussion board, designing a blended or online course takes a lot of time, putting lecture notes online means students won’t come to class, I’ll be answering e-mails and discussion posts all the time, I’m going to have to write all this material to put online, some subjects just cant be taught using technology and it’s just a fad. Kirkwood and Price (2013) reference HEFCE’s three levels of potential benefits of Technology Enhanced Learning:


·      Efficiency – existing processes carried out in a more cost-effective, time-effective, sustainable or scalable manner

·      Enhancement – improving existing processes and the outcomes

·      Transformation – radical, positive change in existing processes or introducing new processes


However many teachers lack the necessary skills to use technologies effectively in their teaching. To address this most institutions do provide some form of support either through a central resource or through local consultation. Ghavifekr and Rosdy (2015) argue that technology can improve and increase the quality, accessibility and cost-efficiency of the delivery of instruction to students. Adcock (2008) suggests that the integration of technology in education has many advantages. It can provide an individualistic approach to students’ work that is quick in submission and response, which gives authentic evidence of learning. It can enable the teacher to become more of a facilitator and allowing them to target different student needs. Tools such as digital portfolios can help the teacher determine if the students are learning well or if adjustments need to be made to improve the teaching and learning situation.


Bates (2016) argues:

·      That teaching methods need to be used that help to develop and transfer specific skills that serve both the purposes of knowledge development and dissemination, while at the same time preparing graduates for work in a knowledge-based society

·      As student numbers have increased, teaching has regressed for a variety of reasons to a greater focus on information transmission and less focus on questioning, exploration of ideas, presentation of alternative viewpoints, and the development of critical or original thinking. Yet these are the very skills needed by students in a knowledge-based society.

·      The wide diversity of the student body is a major challenge for institutions. This requires more focus on teaching methods that provide support for learners, more individualization of learning, and more flexible delivery.

·      Online learning is a continuum; every instructor and every institution now needs to decide: where on this continuum of teaching should a particular course or program be?

·      As more academic content becomes openly and freely available, students will look increasingly to their local institutions for support with their learning, rather than for the delivery of content. This puts a greater focus on teaching skills and less on subject expertise.

·      Faculty and instructors need a strong framework for assessing the value of different technologies, new or existing, and for deciding how or when these technologies make sense for them (and/or their students) to use.


Fisher et al. cluster potential activities with technologies as follows:

·      Knowledge building: adapting and developing ideas, modelling, representing understanding in multimodal and dynamic ways

·      Distributed cognition: accessing resources, finding things out, writing, composing and presenting with mediating artefacts and tools

·      Community and communication: exchanging and sharing communication, extending the context of activity, extending the participating community at local and global level

·      Engagement: exploring and playing, acknowledging risk and uncertainty, working with different dimensions of interactivity, responding to immediacy


It is clear that technologies have the potential to be used effectively and innovatively in learning and teaching, however two aspects are clear: i) the reason a technology is used in a particular learning context needs to be clearly articulated and ii) teachers and students need to be provided with appropriate support on how to use technologies.




Adcock, P. (2008), Evolution of teaching and learning through technology, Teacher Education Faculty Publications. 56,

Bates, A.W.  (2016), Teaching in a digital age,  guidelines for designing teaching and learning,

Fisher, T., Higgins and Lovelace, Teachers Learning with Digital Technologies: A review of research and projects, Futurelab report 14,

Ghavifekr and Rosdy (2015), Teaching and Learning with Technology: Effectiveness of ICT Integration in Schools, International Journal of Research in Education and Science, Volume 1, Issue 2.

Kirkwood, A. and Price, L. (2013), Technology-Enhanced Learning and Teaching in Higher Education: What is ‘enhanced’ and how do we know? A Critical Literature Review, Learning, Media and Technology, 39(1), 6 – 36

Smyth and Mainka (2010), Pedagogy and learning technology: a practical guide,




Accelerated learning

Thursday, May 13th, 2021


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I came across an interesting post from Ron Morrain about accelerated learning. The site lists the following ways to accelerate learning

  • Highlighting can be useful for names, dates, key terms, and definitions
  • Colour highlighting your coding
  • Alternatives to highlighting like dots in the margin
  • Rereading
  • Elaboration - a mental process where you repeatedly ask yourself the classic questions of “Who, what, where, when, why, and how
  • Keynote words - reducing bigger ideas down into individual words that help unlock the large concept

EdTech lists the following examples of accelerating learning:

  • Chunking - a psychological technique that involves breaking down long-form information into little chunks to aid short-term memory. Chunking facilitates better comprehension by means of information grouping
  • Multisensory learning - this includes:
    • Visual: Learning through seeing (pictures, images, and spatial understanding)
    • Aural: Learning through hearing (sound and music)
    • Verbal: Learning through saying (writing and speech)
    • Physical: Learning through doing (using body and sense of touch
    • Mindmapping
    • Using memory aids
    • Relaxing and taking sufficient breaks


Learning and teaching

Tuesday, May 11th, 2021



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The QAA site lists the following principles of learning and teaching:


·      Focus on student achievement and outcomes

·      Provides students with a high-quality learning experience irrespective of where, how or by whom it is delivered.

·      Informed through reflective practice and providers enable staff to engage in relevant, timely and appropriate professional development that supports students’ learning and high-quality teaching

·      Evaluation of provision to manage and enhance their learning and teaching activities

·      Encourages and enables students to take an active role in their studies.

·      Enables students to evaluate and manage their own learning development, supported by opportunities for ongoing dialogue with staff


Technology can be used to enhance course design, lesson planning, presentations, in-class activities, assessments, and student achievement and engagement. Kelly argues that learning outcomes can be adapted to support technology in the classroom, and guides educators through selecting the appropriate technology for their activity, module, or class. Technologies can be used to find, create, and share content with students; facilitating classroom activities and assessing learning inside the classroom or online.


Advance HE provides the following useful set of resources:



EdTechnology lists the following five ways in which technology has changed learning and teaching:


·      Simplifying lesson planning

·      Aiding assessment: flexible assessment criteria that supports a wide range of student’s skills and competences

·      Breaking down boundaries

·      Encouraging collaboration

·      Introducing interactivity


This site suggests the following ways in which technology can be used in learning and teaching:


·      To improve engagement

·      To improve knowledge retention

·      To encourage individual learning

·      To encourage collaboration

·      To enable students to gain useful life skills


The school of education online programme site suggests that effective use of digital learning tools in classrooms can increase student engagement, help teachers improve their lesson plans, and facilitate personalised learning. It also helps students build essential 21st-century skills. Virtual classrooms, video, augmented reality (AR), robots, and other technology tools can make class more lively, and can also create more inclusive learning environments that foster collaboration and inquisitiveness and enable teachers to collect data on student performance. Technology provides students with easy-to-access information, accelerated learning, and fun opportunities to practice what they learn. It enables students to explore new subjects and deepen their understanding of difficult concepts, particularly in STEM. Through the use of technology inside and outside the classroom, students can gain 21st-century technical skills necessary for future occupations. The site lists the following benefits of using technology:


·      Increased collaboration and communication

·      Personalised learning opportunities

·      Enabling curiosity driven by engaging content

·      Improving teacher productivity and efficiency


Mentimeter suggest the following benefits of technology:


·      Students can learner at their own pace

·      Provide more resources

·      Keeping students engaged

·      Helping students develop the skills they will need in an increasingly technology-enabled world











Monday, May 10th, 2021



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am really enjoying being a consultant. It’s great to be able to work from home. I’m involved in a range of interesting projects, including reviewing PhDs and research papers, undertaking a review of a university and its learning and teaching activities, and giving presentations and running workshops. I also enjoy posting on my blog about the activities I am involved with as well as summarizing interesting articles. I find my blog a useful way of reflecting and commenting on things that are happening, and it’s great to get feedback from people… although not so great to get spam messages. I’ve been blogging since 2007 (gosh is it really that long!!) and was inspired to do those after reading Martin Weller’s excellent blog. It’s interesting (or sad…) to think that more people read my blog posts than my research articles. The blogosphere is a useful way of keeping up with what is happening, for example Martin recently blogged about the OERxDomains conference. This site lists some of the advantages of blogging:


·      To share your passion

·      To educate others

·      To gain exposure

·      To build authority

·      To rank in search engines

·      To have content to share



Work comes in on an ad hoc basis, usually after being recommended by someone. It’s great to be able to communicate with people using tools such as Zoom or Teams, and it’s useful that events can be recorded. Being an independent consultant means that I can control what I am involved with and I try and keep posts short, and include relevant links.