Tag Archives: learning

Technology Enhanced Active Learning and Active Learning Spaces

Emma Fletcher
Technology Enhanced Learning Advisor
York St John University


Emma Fletcher was funded to attend this event as a 2017 UCISA bursary winner

At the recent EDUCASE 2017 conference, which I was able to join courtesy of a UCISA bursary, I was able to attend a session on Active Learning Classrooms (ALCs), named by EDUCAUSE as the top strategic technology of 2017 due to the popularity and innovation of ALCs. Active learning classrooms (ALCs) are designed to create affordances that support active learning pedagogies (which research has demonstrated are better when compared with more passive types of learning).

Presented by D. Christopher Brooks and Malcolm Brown (from EDUCAUSE), Melody Buckner  (University of Arizona), Adam Finkelstein (McGill University) and Sehoya Cotner (University of Minnesota), the session explored the research around ALCs as well as looking at the teaching practices that work best in them. There were examples from research, at the University of Minnesota, where the traditional teaching (large lectures) was compared with smaller ALC style teaching. This showed that students in traditional classrooms achieved as expected, however ALC students outperformed against their expected grades. One message that came out of the session was that potential of ALCs can only be realised if you have good teaching. Changing the space may mean that the instructor doesn’t know how to teach in the new space (teachers may try and use the traditional lecture style in the new spaces so, for example, students would have their back to lecturers) and active learning gains are achieved by academics teaching to fit the learning space.

Goals of the Active Learning Initiative

The third day of the EDUCAUSE conference, had a  further technology session presented by Virginia Lacefield, Enterprise Architect at University of Kentucky, looking at ‘Evaluating the Impact of Technology-Enhanced Active Learning Classrooms on Students and Instructors: Lessons from our First Full Year’.

Between 2014 and 2016, the University of Kentucky had opened 17 new Technology Enhanced Active Learning (TEAL) spaces at the university and carried out an evaluation of the impact of these on teaching, student learning outcomes and retention. The data collected consisted of surveys from both students and instructors as well as classroom observations and course grades. The classroom observations (adapted from the University of Minnesota developed instrument) were timed observations where every five minutes they marked down what the students and instructor were doing.

The observations showed a great deal of variation between classes. The findings of the staff survey showed that 18% of staff did not plan to use active learning strategies and 29% of staff planned not to use the TEAL equipment. 126 of the courses taught in TEAL had enough data points for comparison, 35 of these courses had significant grade differences for all students (29 had a positive difference favouring the TEAL sections, six had a positive difference favouring the non-TEAL sections). When they looked at retention, they found that there was significant correlation between number of TEAL courses taken and second year retention. As a result they are increasing the support for staff to help support the use of TEAL, such as technology/pedagogy open houses, scheduled one-on-one support appointments, giving advance notice of classroom assignment and communicating about available support resources.







Other highlights of the EDUCAUSE conference included:




Preparation for EDUCAUSE 2017 #EDU17

Emma Fletcher
Technology Enhanced Learning Advisor
York St John University




Emma Fletcher was funded to attend this event as a 2017 UCISA bursary winner

As a UCISA bursary winner for 2017, I got the opportunity to attend the annual EDUCAUSE conference, this year held in Philadelphia, PA.

Before setting off for America, I downloaded the EDUCAUSE app, which was invaluable over the course of the conference. This allowed me to look at the agenda for the conference and start to identify some of the sessions I wanted to attend. The conference had general sessions as well as parallel sessions over the three days I was attending. The sessions were divided into tracks, with driving innovation in teaching and learning being the main one I focused on. Inevitably, whilst attending the sessions I chose, I worried I had selected the ‘wrong’ ones!

I arrived in Philadelphia a few days before the conference, to allow me to acclimatise and get my bearings. This was my first trip to America. Philadelphia itself is a lovely city – I would definitely recommend a visit.







The conference location was a short walk from my hotel, so I headed there bright and early on Wednesday morning to register and collect my badge (which I personalised with stickers at the ribbon station). The venue itself, the Philadelphia Convention Centre, was huge! My step count over the course of the conference can attest to this! The EDUCAUSE staff were friendly and welcoming, with someone on hand to point you in the right direction (which was likely with such a sprawling venue and a number of parallel presentations).


New ideas and innovative concepts


Ed Stout
Support Services Manager
Leeds Beckett University

EUNIS 2017 Day 3 Reflections

Ed Stout was funded to attend this event as a 2017 UCISA bursary winner

Day 3 was a shorter day at EUNIS17 with an early afternoon closing to allow for everyone to travel home.  In contrast to the previous two days, it started with a number of optional parallel sessions to choose from in place of early morning keynotes. This morning I chose to mix-and-match with parallel sessions, starting off in a session on the “New Ideas & Innovative Concepts” track and following on to 2 sessions on “Learning, Teaching & Student Experience”.








Mikko Mäkelä and his colleagues at Helsinki Metropolia University of Applied Sciences, Finland are required like many of us to have to optimise their estate and within that their technology offerings. This was discussed in Mikko’s session ‘New Ideas & Innovative Concepts: Laptop Lending, with Zero Effort?

Additionally, the BYOD world in which we are now living is having an effect on our students’ expectations and the way in which they learn both on and off campus. Mikko identified that this change in technology provision should not simply be driven by the IT department but also by the changes in teaching styles within the business. It was highlighted that a key factor in deciding what we need to provide is to better understand how our students are currently working and indeed how they would like to learn and work in the future.

By comparison to some other universities having presented at EUNIS17, Metropolia University is a relatively modestly sized university with just over 16,000 students and around 1,000 staff.  They identified that the classroom PCs were not utilised enough and that they may be in the wrong locations. Additionally, they were commonly not available at peak times between 10:00 and 14:00. It was therefore decided that a new approach had to be adopted to enable increased flexibility whilst offering a service that was of high-quality, available where and when required, and inclusive of all appropriate software. Metropolia investigated a variety of the lending options that were on the market including those from Posti, Redbox, D-Tech International and Ergotron. Following this, a number of their students undertook projects to design and develop a suitable laptop loans offering and created a new solution they named “LaptopLender”. Their resultant theses can be found link below: (please note they are in Finnish)

Theses 1

Theses 2

A link to Mikko’s presentation slides can be found: Eunis2017: Laptop lending, with zero-effort?

A link to Mikko’s “Laptop lending, with zero-effort?” paper can be found here.

This blog post first appeared on http://www.edstout.co.uk/2017/06/27/day-3-reflections/



Next generation Digital Learning Architecture






Ed Stout
Support Services Manager
Leeds Beckett University

EUNIS 2017

Ed Stout was funded to attend this event as a 2017 UCISA bursary winner

Dr. Rob Abel, Chief Executive Officer of IMS Global Learning Consortium, came across from the USA to talk us through his thoughts on the future of Digital Learning Architecture in Higher Education at EUNIS 2017. He very quickly put strong emphasis on the importance of a digital transformation strategy within HE institutions and outlined that IT should be an enabler to teaching and learning innovation. Dr. Abel’s presentation had so much content, in truth it was difficult to keep up. He gave us an overview of the tools and technology in place within the HE market for teaching and learning as outlined in the photo below: (apologies for poor image quality)







An outdated architecture for learning had different systems uniquely silo-ed with little to no interoperability:







What if now it was quicker and easier to make systems work in harmony, to benefit the connected learner? Well, Dr. Abel, in collaboration with Malcolm Brown (EDUCAUSE Learning Initiative) and Jack Suess (University of Maryland), had previously written a paper in 2013 analysing “A New Architecture for Learning” which highlights the need for an IT department to be agile, flexible and allow for personalisation when integrating new innovative learning technologies. Seamless interoperability between both current and future developed systems is the key to success; not simply an over-reliance on a current Learning Management System (LMS), but an ecosystem developed beyond it. Dr Abel referenced a very useful paper produced by the EDUCAUSE Learning Initiative in 2015 entitled “The Next Generation Digital Learning Environment” which is worth your time to read and is available here

Dr. Abel then took the opportunity to take us on a high-speed tour of the benefits and impact of Learning Tools Interoperability (LTI), which include:

  • Reduced integration time and cost by a factor of 100-1000x
  • Ubiquitous across 70+ learning platforms
  • Hundreds of certified LTI apps of varying types
  • Foundation of interoperable edtech ecosystem.








IMS Global have publicly released Caliper, a learning analytics interoperability framework that enables the collection, storage and transportation of data about learning. The Caliper framework removes the limitations of a single LMS system and opens up a broad range of benefits to be realised through the integration and interoperability of multiple systems. It is worth noting that it is being taken seriously by many HE institutions and partners, so is not one to simply toss aside without further investigation.

Seven things you should know about Caliper

This blog post first appeared on http://www.edstout.co.uk/2017/06/25/day-2-reflections/

Mobile learning

julie120Julie Adams
Academic Skills Tutor
Staffordshire University
UCISA DSDG (User Skills Group)



Learning Technologies 2015: Day 2 – Geoff Stead: Mobile delivery – putting the device in your hand to work

Geoff Stead is from Qualcomm, who make the chips in our phones. They are a huge organisation with 31,000 employees. Geoff described the work they have done to create an internal ‘app store’ for their employees and highlighted the most relevant parts of this. Qualcomm purposely avoided squeezing elearning modules onto a smaller screen and focused more on linking to performance support resources and apps that were free, or resources already subscribed to, as well as content developed internally. More information on the work of Geoff’s team is at the WorkLearnMobile site.

Qualcomm are obviously a very different type of organisation to HE – there were 15 people in Geoff’s team that worked on this and there are many more staff – but there were some lessons we could take from what they have done.

Some of the drivers for the development were ‘guerilla learners’ – those who don’t like to wait for corporate learning and development activities, but like to find stuff for themselves using Google, LinkedIn, social networks and mobile resources. I think we can all recognise these people, and are maybe like that ourselves! As more staff (and maybe students?) adopt this method of professional development we will need to look at how we can best support it.

There are already a number of institutions who have run one-off or regular ‘app swap’ events (for an example see one of the case studies within the UCISA Best Practice Guide from 2013 ‘Changing landscapes: The challenges of IT and digital skills training in the changing HE landscape’) and build resources to promote useful apps from these. These are useful and help to engage staff, but maybe don’t touch all who could benefit. Looking to see how we could bring useful apps to the attention of all staff is definitely an area worthy of further consideration.

Developing a resource for staff or students that highlights the apps available for various resources and systems we already have – library resources, systems such as lynda.com, free news/journal sites amongst others – would be something that we could do, even if this was not as comprehensive as our own app stores. I am certainly planning to see what I could do for my own institution, beginning with a LibGuide page as a starting point.

Learning Technologies 2015

How the cloud is revolutionising learning


Julie Adams
Academic Skills Tutor
Staffordshire University
UCISA DSDG (User Skills Group)



Learning Technologies 2015: Day 1 – Opening keynote

The conference kicked off with a welcome from Donald Taylor and a request to discuss with our neighbours our current workplace challenges. Despite my neighbours being from very different backgrounds to HE (insurance and healthcare) and the actual challenges different, we did find a similar underlying theme of uncertainty. This is the case for my own institution currently and in an election year is probably the case for many areas. It will be interesting to see whether the sessions over the two days can help address these challenges.

Opening Keynote – Professor Sugata Mitra: A brave new world: how the cloud is revolutionising our learning

Sugata started by looking at requirements of workplaces from the 19th and 20th centuries – military, clerks and manufacturing. Schools produced what was needed for these – workers had to be repetitive, follow orders, don’t think. An interesting thought: “Schools enabled empires for centuries. That world is now obsolete”.

He looked at how new technologies may be used in ways not initially envisaged. When the car took over from coach and horses it was not expected that the passengers would move to the driver’s position. New rules and equipment were needed to be able to cope with this new order. Relating this to learning – books and teachers took people to where they wanted to go. Now should the training ‘engine’ be in the hands of learners? Can they be driving their own learning?

And as driverless cars start to be developed – Sugata suggested we should think what driving means in context of driverless cars. He suggested that concepts can dematerialise, not just things. So can learning dematerialise?

He moved on to outline his previous work with the computer hole-in-the-wall experiments and more recently the Granny Cloud and the TED prize he won which helped with his School-in-the-Cloud concept and self-organized learning environments. These are spreading over the world with the key features of working together to answer specific questions. It is a chaotic environment, with a curriculum of questions, peer assessment, and certification without exams. He reported that the groups are self-correcting with strong social control and never got a ‘wrong’ answer.

Some questions for us to think about in HE and FE. Will this type of learning fit the students better for the world of work? If HE institutions get students from schools who have learnt like this, could we cope? How could we continue to offer this type of experience? Some institutions/courses may offer this more independent learning already, but can it be enhanced and expanded further? Would it work in all cases?

Learning Technologies 2015

Evaluating learning spaces


Julie Voce
E-learning Services Manager
Imperial College London
Chair, UCISA-DSDG Academic Support Group





Tuesday at Educause

My highlight from Tuesday at Educause was a presentation from Adam Finkelstein from McGill University in Canada. Adam presented about evaluating learning spaces, and it was quite apt that his session was in a room with flexible furniture. He mentioned that McGill has a Teaching and Learning Spaces Working Group who sign off all new learning spaces.

Adam used Poll Everywhere to survey the audience about their challenges in evaluating/using learning spaces and the main issues were:

  • Different disciplines/staff have different needs for the space
  • Not all learning spaces are centrally controlled/owned
  • Getting staff and students to use the rooms as intended
  • Some rooms prioritise the technology over the furnishings.

He cited Michael Patton’s book for Utilization-focused Evaluation and the importance of understanding actual use, but we need to understand what is important to the different stakeholders:

2014-09-30 14.41.57

Adam highlighted two types of tools for evaluating learning spaces:

  • Learning Space Rating System (LSRS) – to determine the potential use of the space and be able to evaluate one room compared to another. In a review of three different spaces at McGill, a large lecture theatre scored lower than a mid-size renovated lecture theatre, which in turn scored lower than the active learning space; this was the expected result. One criticism of the LSRS is that some of the criteria might be beyond a University’s control, e.g. requirement for a window in the room, or not part of a University’s mission, e.g. requirement to enable distributed learners to join the face-to-face session.
  • Post Occupancy evaluations – these need to be built internally and connected to the University’s mission. The aim is to look at the actual use of learning spaces, rather than potential use. At McGill, they used a variety of methods, including surveys and observations, with both staff and students to understand the experience in the space. Adam mentioned that one of the most powerful outcomes of the evaluation was a video they developed with academics and students talking about their experience of teaching and learning in those spaces. In addition, the observations mapped how staff moved around the room during a session and showed that students were engaged in deeper learning when the staff moved around the room more and spent more time at the tables than at the podium.

Both types of evaluation have a role to play and Adam suggested that institutions undertake the LSRS, then renovate the room, and then repeat the LSRS. In parallel, institutions should carry out post occupancy evaluations, however he noted that ‘building a better room does not necessarily mean positive post occupancy evaluations’.

Adam reported on a student survey they had undertaken on the use of learning spaces, and focussed on a question about which room features had benefitted learning. Interestingly, furniture was ahead of the technology in terms of benefit:

2014-09-30 15.01.02

Ultimately, he said that ‘good teaching can withstand poor spaces and poor teaching can withstand good spaces’. We therefore need to ensure that in parallel with creating better, more flexible rooms, we ensure that staff and students know how to use them to the best effect to meet their intended outcomes.

Julie Voce


Looking forward to Educause

Julie Voce
E-learning Services Manager
Imperial College London
Chair, UCISA-DSDG Academic Support Group




Next week I will be attending the Educause conference, thanks to a bursary from UCISA. It will be my first time and I am both excited and daunted about going. Over the years several colleagues have told me what an excellent conference it is, especially for learning and teaching, so I am excited about finding out more about the use of technology for learning and teaching from a US perspective. With around 7,000 delegates, it is also quite a daunting prospect, especially given the size of the conference agenda, which required several hours’ consultation to plan my schedule.

As the E-learning Services Manager at Imperial College London and Chair of the UCISA Academic Support Group, my areas of interest are the strands on ‘learning and teaching’ and ‘e-learning/connected learning’ and there certainly appears to be a number of interesting sessions. Popular topics include mobile devices, flipped classroom, learning spaces, learning analytics and Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs). I’m particularly interested in the following sessions:

As part of the conference, Peter Tinson and I will be presenting a poster on Tuesday afternoon on the UCISA Technology Enhanced Learning (TEL) Survey. With my TEL survey hat on, I’m also keen to attend the sessions by the Educause Center for Analysis and Research (ECAR) as they run a survey on student and staff use of technology.

I’ll be tweeting throughout the conference and we’re hoping to spark some discussion around the TEL survey so please do follow me at @julievoce.