7 Ideas for…Padlet

Screenshot of Padlet

What is Padlet?

Padlet is an online tool that enables individuals to express their thoughts around a common topic or theme easily. Users can put any type of content (e.g. text, images, videos, documents, weblinks) anywhere on the ‘Padlet Wall’.

At CCCU, Padlet was first introduced to colleagues through our ’12 TELs of Christmas’ event [internal CCCU link only] that ran throughout December 2016. In September 2018, CCCU bought a site licence enabling all staff and students to use Padlet.

7 Ideas for learning & teaching

  1. Prior Knowledge: Use a Padlet wall to ascertain what students already know about a particular topic. Students just post their knowledge on Padlet, so you can see how to build your lesson.
  2. Resource Curation: Create a thematic or topic based Padlet wall and ask students to post a resource and provide a brief synopsis about it. Can be used for collaborative notetaking on a presentation that was given.
  3. Journal Annotations: Ask your students to post a journal article they have read and provide some annotative text around it.
  4. Student Reflections: At the end of a topic or module, use a Padlet wall to collect student reflections on what was learnt and what students need more help with.
  5. Storyboarding: Use a Padlet wall to ‘storyboard’ when developing stories, dialogue, games, animations and film.
  6. Prediction: Use a Padlet wall to ask students to predict what happened next around a particular idea, experiment, topic, historical outcome.
  7. Ask A Question: Use a Padlet wall to enable your students to ask questions during the lesson. It’s very handy when students don’t understand something or need a better explanation. Stop your lesson 10 minutes early and go over the questions. This way students who are afraid to ask questions can still ask their questions anonymously. It gives a voice to every student in the room, even to the shy ones.

Getting inspiration

CCCU has created an online space for sharing innovative practice in Learning, Teaching and Assessment. We are calling this space ‘PRISM’. Here, you will find a case study on using Padlet. If CCCU colleagues have an innovative or interesting use for using Padlet to support learning and teaching, we would love to hear from you!

What next?

Details on how to access and use Padlet is available on our Blackboard Help page [internal CCCU link only]. If you would like to discuss how Padlet could be useful to you, please contact your Faculty Learning Technologist and arrange for a chat.


ALT-C 2015: A Few Reflections

“CB_ALT_080915_194” by Association for Learning Technology. Creative Commons licence CC BY-NC-SA
CB_ALT_080915_194” by Association for Learning Technology. Creative Commons licence CC BY-NC-SA


The Association for Learning Technology (ALT) holds an annual conference each year. This year was the 22nd annual conference that took place on 8-10 September 2015 at the University of Manchester. This year’s theme was “Shaping the Future of Learning Together” which focused upon the following areas:

  • Harnessing the power of the crowd – collaboration and connectivist learning;
  • Social media in learning and teaching;
  • Open educational practice;
  • Learners as agents of change;
  • Participatory approaches to the development of learning technologies.

The conference was host to almost 500 delegates from around the world and ran 185 sessions over three days (ALT, 2015). Simon Starr and I attended the conference and presented a session called “The Chamber of Fear: A Role Playing Approach to the Recruitment and Selection of Learning Technologists”, you can read my reflections on how our session went on my personal blog.

Rather than report verbatim on the 33 sessions that I had attended, what I would like to do is to offer some of my reflections on some of those sessions that resonated with me.

#1: A new model to describe e-portfolios

In John Couperthwaite’s session, “Nailing jelly to the wall: defining and describing eportfolio”, he discusses the thorny issue that surrounds the “conversational confusion about e-portfolios”, much of it stems from how an e-portfolio is perceived. Strivens (2015) suggests that there are three types of e-portfolio:

  1. Type A (Represent One’s Self)
  2. Type B (Presentation of Evidence), and
  3. Type C (Demonstrate Achievement)

This largely draws upon the early work of Barrett (2004). John’s colleague, Shane Sutherland of PebblePad, offers a different solution, the “e-Portfolio Format Model”, which “suggests that an e-portfolio is the product of the interplay between the audience, the message being conveyed, and the content it presents” (Sutherland, 2015). In this model, the e-portfolio can be conceived as either “Me-Portfolios” or “Task-Portfolios”, of which there are a number of related purposes:

  • Me-Portfolios (tends to focus on the author)
    • Personal
    • Professional
    • Promotional
  • Task-Portfolios (tends to focus on an activity)
    • Process
    • Project
    • Placement
    • Production
    • Pedagogical

Whilst this might be a useful step in helping people to conceptualise what an e-portfolio is, there is still, I think, a lot of work need to be done in demonstrating the “value” of an e-portfolio.

#2: An approach to developing digital capabilities for staff

Liz Bennett & Sue Folley, from the University of Huddersfield, reported in their session, “A positive and participatory approach to developing digital capabilities”, about a one year strategic project to investigate and develop the digital literacies of academic staff at their university. A particular focus of the project was to try and achieve high levels of confidence and skill for those academics who might be classified as the ‘late adopters’, those who are not usually the innovators or early adopters of technology (Rogers, 1983). Much has been made of the notion of “digital capabilities” by JISC, the HEA and the QAA. The University of Huddersfield had embedded digital literacy for staff in their current Learning & Teaching strategy.

The team used a “Trojan horse” approach to staff digital literacy by embedding it within a 2.5 hour Curriculum Design workshop in a bid to change academics belief systems around the value of learning technology. Adopting an appreciative enquiry approach and using the JISC ViewPoints cards developed by the University of Ulster, the team got the academic staff to think about their curriculum; how it fitted within institutional agendas; look at issues identified by the academic team; involve cross-functional teams (Learning Technologists and Librarians); look at how technology could be meaningfully incorporated within their redesign; and identify support for it.

This is a very interesting and powerful way to develop staff digital literacy skills through the intervention of a curriculum design workshop. As was noted by the presenters, a 2.5 hour workshop is not sufficient. Somewhere down the line, institutions need to create some valuable space and time so that academic staff are able to engage with far-reaching agendas in a friendly, but critical, environment.

#3: The Student Dashboard

Ann Liggett and Ed Foster, from Nottingham Trent University, ran a short 15 minute presentation called “The Student Dashboard: An Innovative Collaboration in Learning Analytics” (a variation of their presentation can be found here). Their presentation related to a pilot project, involving 500 students and over 40 tutors, whereby the institution wanted to use an assortment of student support systems more effectively to support the student journey. This ‘dashboard’ provided views for both students and staff and drew data from a variety of sources such as:

  • Student biographical information (e.g. enrolment status)
  • Evidence of student engagement, which include:
    • door swipes (where appropriate)
    • Library book loans
    • VLE usage
    • dropbox submissions

Future enhancements to the ‘dashboard’ will feature student attendance and e-resource usage. Furthermore, the ‘dashboard’ provides a mechanism that compares individual student profiles with that of their cohort and generates a simple ranking, from high to low. This has, apparently, prompted 27% (135) of the students to become more engaged with their studies.

In addition, tutor alerts are automatically generated for attention of personal tutors, if a student has no engagement at all for a fortnight or fails an assignment. However, the presenters were not entirely sure if the tutors were using the ‘dashboard’ in a consistent way. Unsurprisingly, it was noted that there were ethical issues that needed to be addressed in dealing with such ‘big data’.

Learning Analytics, as it is called, has been quite prevalent in the US for some time and is beginning to make inroads into the HE sector from the likes of JISC and the HEA. Potentially, this can give tutors an almost 360o perspective of their students, drawing upon a vast array of data that could help tutors to better support their students, thus helping towards dealing with student retention and attrition.


ALT. (2015). Press release: Annual Conference 2015. We have the power to shape the future of learning – together. Oxford, England: Association for Learning Technology (ALT). Available at: https://www.alt.ac.uk/news/media_releases/press-release-annual-conference-2015-we-have-power-shape-future-learning [Accessed 22.9.2015].

Barrett, H. (2004). “Selecting ePortfolio Software”. ePortfolios for Learning blog, 01.06.2004. Available from: http://electronicportfolios.org/blog/2004/06/selecting-eportfolio-software.html [Assessed 22.9.2015].

Rogers, E.M. (1983). Diffusion of Innovation. 3rd Edition. London, England: Free Press.

Strivens, J. (2015). “A Typology of ePortfolios”. RAPPORT: The International Journal for Recording Achievement, Planning and Portfolios, 1(1), pp. 3-5. Available at: http://joom.ag/I58p [Accessed 22.9.2015].

Sutherland, S. (2015). “Reflections of the Typology”. RAPPORT: The International Journal for Recording Achievement, Planning and Portfolios, 1(1), pp. 6-10. Available at: http://joom.ag/I58p [Accessed 22.9.2015].

Simulations – Hydra in the Cloud

In this interview, Dr Elaine Brown, a lecturer in the School of Law, Criminal Justice and Computing, and Shireen Dorosti, IT Communication Officer for the Information Technology (IT) Department, discuss how Hydra, a special simulation system, was developed at Canterbury Christ Church University (CCCU).

“We Love Hydra” by Elaine Brown. All rights reserved.
“We Love Hydra” by Elaine Brown. All rights reserved.

Can you briefly explain what Hydra is?

Hydra is an immersive simulation system, supported by the Hydra Foundation, that provides a unique, high-fidelity learning environment that enables the monitoring of real-time leadership and decision making in critical incidents (e.g., terrorist attacks, murders, abductions). The system has now been extended to other areas such as education, health, social services (e.g. child protection enquiries) and non-governmental organisations (NGOs) (e.g. hostage recovery) in the humanitarian world.

In each simulation, participants are split into teams. Each team operates within a separate ‘pod’ which functions as a “microworld”, so that it is as close to reality as possible; they are monitored via CCTV and boundary microphones. A team of staff will run the simulation via a central control room and will observe the behaviours and requests of each team interacting with the simulation.

How did CCCU become involved in using Hydra?

The university placed a bid to work closely with the Hydra Foundation so that we could offer students who were planning to go on an work in policing a unique opportunity to experience first-hand an authentic simulated experience of being part of a critical incidence unit. What you need to bear in mind, our students are not police officers, so a certain amount of transitioning is needed.

There are a couple of firsts for the University. We are the first university to be using the new web-based Hydra in the Cloud system that can operate on tablets, laptops, and desk computers with no addition software installed.

We are also the first Higher Education Institution (HEI) to use Hydra within our undergraduate programme offering.

How is Hydra being used by the School?

As this was our first year with the system, we piloted Hydra on a Level 6 module called Terrorism and Political Violence.

What is involved in setting up Hydra?

There was quite a bit of time needed to get Hydra up-and-running and supported, so I am indebted to Shireen Dorosti (of IT) for supporting helping me with the installation and project management aspects of the role.

But to develop a “scenario” within Hydra can take up to 6 months from idea, to research, developing a narrative, ensuring that it constructively aligned to the module’s learning outcomes and for the creation of a range of materials and resources.

I collaborated very closely with the Hydra Foundation and Kent Police in developing a scenario that was authentic, relevant and challenging to our students. Importantly, this project relied on contributions from many different departments across the University, including School of Media, Art and Design; School of Music and Performing Arts; the University Solicitor’s Office; Computing, Digital Forensics and Cybersecurity; IT; The Students’ Union; even the Reverend Dr Jeremy Law and the Vice-Chancellor and Principal, Professor Rama Thirunamachandran offered time and assistance to ensure the practical validity of the scenario.

In addition, staff that were using and supporting the Hydra system had to go on a two day training course to be certified to manage and support Hydra.

How has Hydra facilitated with your teaching?

You don’t develop Hydra around your course. It is a tool that enables you to demonstrate, as realistically as possible, the processes involved and the decision made by a team during a critical incident.

On a personal level, it was very satisfying to see how much the students enjoyed the experience and the invaluable insights that they gained from that. It has also sharpened their critical thinking skills. In fact, one of the unintended outcomes of this process is to see how transferable this experience has been to students in other modules in terms of attendance, criticality and engagement.

How have the students responded to the use of Hydra?

Because the Hydra experience was so full-on, the attendance by students on these events was very high. They developed stronger models of thinking and for some students, the experience helped to build their confidence – so it was not all about academic attainment.

The students got to learn, very quickly, that they had to think about different outcomes for certain incidents based on the information that was being presented to them by a number of external actors within the scenario. This had led to a number of students to develop mind maps to help them organise and synthesise different types of information and outcomes.

Is there anything you would have done differently?

Looking back, I don’t think there was anything I could have done differently. There was a lot of uncertainty in pulling this project off, but I learnt so much along the way. The project incorporated the co-operation of around 60 people in total and I believe we worked well as a team together to make the project a success.

What next?

We are planning to introduce Hydra into a Forensic Investigation module called Crime Scene Management in 2015/16, Law and Criminal Investigation modules in 2017/18.

I am also planning to evaluate and publish our findings and experiences into academic journals and conferences as I think we have a really good story to tell.

The School of Law, Criminal Justice and Computing are looking to make us a Centre of Excellence on the use of Hydra.

I have been working very closely with the Information Technology (IT) department to get this system up-and-running and indeed colleagues in the Computing, Digital Forensics and Cybersecurity department over the summer they will be  to refurbishing and refreshing the rooms in the Invicta building to enable us to do a lot more with our students.

There are also plans a view for the future to have a booking system so that people can book out Hydra for learning and teaching events.

So there will be a lot going on in terms of promoting, embedding and expanding Hydra within the University and beyond.

Author’s Note

My thanks to both Elaine and Shireen for giving up their time to discuss this very fascinating and important project.

Webinars – Bringing in the experts

"Philippe Legrain webinar" by John Fitzgibbon. All rights reserved.
“Philippe Legrain webinar” by John Fitzgibbon. All rights reserved.


Dr. John Fitzgibbon, a senior lecture in politics at Canterbury Christ Church University (CCCU), has recently posted about his year long experience of running webinars as part of his teaching practice in political science.

What is a webinar?

A webinar is a live meeting that takes place over the web. It can consist of presentation, discussion, demonstration, or instructional session. Participants can view documents and applications via their computers, while shared audio allows for presentation and discussion.

Webinars can be an efficient way to transmit and share information. There is no transportation involved – so webinars can save time and money.

Using webinars for learning and teaching

JISC Digital Media offers some very sound advice on conducting a webinar, and suggest that webinars can be used for learning and teaching in the following ways (JISC, 2015):

  • Enhancement of limited teaching time by offering provision to a wider and more dispersed audience;
  • A flexible feature set that incorporates mixed media such as images, video, web and audio for use in presentation, discussion or support;
  • Supports remote teaching sessions;
  • Improves access to support for staff, students or your learning community via face-to-face settings (e.g. ‘drop-in’ or scheduled appointments);
  • Facilitates individual or group activity.
Dr. John Fitzgibbon, Senior Lecture in Politics
Dr. John Fitzgibbon, Senior Lecture in Politics

John’s experience

John tried out two forms of webinar, one that was hosted and organised by an external partner, and the other one was hosted and organised by John.

The external partner brought a wealth of experience in terms of the technology and their contacts and was able to edit and piece together the webinar to make a coherent narrative. As John notes, it “takes both time and technical training which most educators simply don’t have, to make the videos look somewhat professional” (Fitzgibbon, 2015). However, there is the potential drawback that your pedagogical goals for the class may not necessarily align with those of the external partner, which may lead to a lack of class interaction and control on the teacher’s part.

In the webinar organised and hosted by John, he used a combination of conference cam and Skype to deliver his session – the class were able to hear and see the main speaker with clarity. In this way, John was in total control of the topic of discussion and students had an opportunity to speak and ask questions of the webinar speaker, thus giving students access to experts in particular fields of scholarship and inquiry and ask questions on deeply complex contemporary issues.

What next?

Whilst John had used an external partner and Skype to run his webinar sessions, the University has software called Blackboard Collaborate which could be used to run webinars.

You can use Blackboard Collaborate, a tool integrated into Blackboard, to easily create your own webinars. If you would like to know more, contact your Faculty Learning Technologist and arrange for a chat.


Fitzgibbon, J. (2015). “Using Webinars in Political Science Education”. Politics & International Relations blog, 13.2.2015. Available at: https://canterburypolitics.wordpress.com/2015/02/13/using-webinars-in-political-science-education/ [Accessed 28.4.2015].

JISC. (2015). Webinars in Education. Bristol, England: Joint Information Systems Committee (JISC). Available at: http://www.jiscdigitalmedia.ac.uk/guide/webinars-in-education [Accessed 28.4.2015].

Flexible Learning: Conditions of Flexibility

Source: The Higher Education Academy (HEA)
Source: The Higher Education Academy (HEA)

This is the seventh (and final) in a short series of posts on the work undertaken by the Higher Education Academy (HEA) on flexible learning.


This final report (Barnett, 2014) is the culmination of four earlier reports, under the aegis of ‘Flexible Pedagogies’, which have considered flexible learning from a range of perspectives. It draws upon and brings together those many threads that have been offered in the previous complementary reports. The report references the HEA‘s overarching research question:

Why and to what extent might flexible pedagogies be promoted, and in what ways?

Professor Ron Barnett, the report’s author, offers a nuanced critical analysis of what flexibility may – and may not – mean, and the conditions under which a greater measure of flexibility is likely to flourish within, and benefit, the United Kingdom (UK) Higher Education (HE) system.

Flexing Flexibility

The notion of flexibility in higher education is not new. Barnett (2014) recounts that in 1858, the University of London offered degrees to any (male) student regardless of where they were in the world. Barnett also notes that flexibility, within the literature, has been theme for inquiry and investigation for more than 20 years, yet it has become something of an “empty concept”, arguing:

Flexibility being such a fluid and indeed inchoate and elusive concept, with rather loose attachments to specific settings, it can be – and is – called up to meet many if not all of the alleged shortcomings in and challenges facing higher education. (ibid., 2014:32)

If there is too little flexibility then the systems that are in place are unable to be responsive. On the other hand, too much flexibility could run the risk of lowering standards.

Conditions of Flexibility

Barnett (2014) proposes a set of yardsticks that he calls conditions of flexibility by which institutions are able evaluate their flexible provision:

  1. lead to a qualification that contributes to major awards (such as degrees or their equivalent);
  2. offer all students access to suitable materials and appropriate cognitive and practical experiences;
  3. offer academic interaction with other students;
  4. offer access to tutors, in real-time interaction;
  5. offer prompt and informative (formative) feedback from tutors;
  6. offer access to other academic services (such as counselling, academic and careers advice);
  7. offer financial services (appropriate to the cost to students in financing their studies);
  8. enable students to offer feedback on their total experience;
  9. provide a pedagogical openness;
  10. be academically and educationally structured;
  11. offer ladder(s) of progression;
  12. be suitably robust and reliable (with built-in safeguards appropriate to the risk);
  13. be cost-effective;
  14. have sufficient structure so as to enable student completion to be a likely outcome; and
  15. contain sufficient challenge that students are likely to be cognitively and experientially stretched and to be informed by a spirit of criticality appropriate to each stage of a programme of studies (so as fully to realise the promise of a higher education).

…and finally

In his concluding remarks, Barnett (2014) is cognizant that “not every instance of ‘flexible provision’ will meet all of these 15 conditions of flexibility” (p.68) and suggests that institutions should construct a flexibility analysis and evaluation as a means to check the “educational soundness” of the flexible provision project. He calls for a “steady gaze” upon the “conditions” to act as a catalyst towards new thinking, new practices and new approaches in response to an uncertain and complex world.


Barnett, R. (2014). Conditions of Flexibility: Securing a more responsive Higher Education system. York, England: The Higher Education Academy (HEA). Available at: https://www.heacademy.ac.uk/flexible-pedagogies-preparing-future [Accessed 17.3.2015].

Flexible Learning: Technology-Enhanced Learning

Source: The Higher Education Academy (HEA)
Source: The Higher Education Academy (HEA)

This is the sixth in a short series of posts on the work undertaken by the Higher Education Academy (HEA) on flexible learning.


The report on technology-enhanced learning (TEL) (Gordon, 2014) is the fourth (and final) in a short series of complementary reports from the HEA that go under the banner of “flexible pedagogies”. The report is guided by the HEA’s overarching research question:

Why and to what extent might flexible pedagogies be promoted, and in what ways?

The report considers the role of information and communications technology (ICT) and information technology (IT) through the three “main dimensions” of flexible learning that supports pace (e.g. accelerated and decelerated degrees), place (e.g. work-based learning and employer engagement), and mode of learning (e.g. blended learning).

Whilst the report is suggestive of the opportunities that technology could bring to flexible provision, it was also mindful that it could generate new dilemmas for institutions, with fresh issues around collaborative learning, plagiarism and the resource implications of allowing such choices.

Levels of Flexibility

Complementing the three “main dimensions” of flexible learning, the report (Gordon, 2014) suggests three “levels of flexibility” which are a mix of philosophical and practical perspectives. These are articulated in the following way:

  • ontological – the flexibility of the students themselves, such as how flexible they are to deal with different learning approaches as well as the wider context around them that affect their studies and their future development;
  • pedagogical – theories and delivery of learning in terms of the flexibility of the teaching, its approaches and modes; and
  • systems – how institutional structures and processes allow for flexibility in teaching (pedagogy) and learning (ontology).

Similarly these “levels” can be viewed as both opportunities and challenges to Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) who want to adopt a flexible TEL approach.

Examples of TEL

The report offers a number of examples of how learning technologies are enabling learning, teaching and assessment. These include:

  • team projects, group work and peer assessment;
  • balancing and utilising formative and summative assessments when using computer aided assessment;
  • adopting e-submission and providing informative and timely e-feedback; and
  • applying new approaches to engage and motivate students.

However, as noted in the HEA Flexible Learning Pathfinders project, whilst learning technologies can be an enabler for greater flexibility in learning; there are other ways in which flexibility could be introduced that was not necessarily dependent on a technological solution (Outram 2011).

Technology-Enabled Models

The report describes a range of approaches to learning that are significantly dependent on technology. These include:

  • personalised learning – tailoring the learning experience to an individual student’s needs and desires;
  • support for synchronous and asynchronous activities – the former representing activities done in real time with immediate interaction (e.g. webinar), the latter those done over a period of time (e.g. discussion board);
  • flexible learning – similar to personalised but with a greater focus on how the material adapts to an individual’s progress, and may include adaptive/flexi-level testing;
  • gamification – the use of game techniques (especially game mechanics) to encourage and motivate activities can be especially relevant to learning;
  • online learning – the use of Internet-based TEL to deliver content that supports anytime, anywhere, anyplace characteristics; and
  • blended learning – a mix of physical/real-world interaction complemented by virtual/digital-world interaction.

The report acknowledges that whilst the above list is not exhaustive, it does indicate those areas that can provide scalable and pragmatic solutions. By way of a conclusion, the report recognises that the fundamental learning and teaching activities are “not altered”; that is accessing concepts and ideas, assimilating these through practice and ultimately demonstrating mastery. What technology offers, the report’s author notes, is scalability, flexibility and new ways of learning.


Gordon, N. (2014). Flexible Pedagogies: Technology-Enhanced Learning. York, England: The Higher Education Academy (HEA). Available at: https://www.heacademy.ac.uk/flexible-pedagogies-technology-enhanced-learning [Accessed 17.3.2015].

Outram, S. (2011). Final Evaluation of the HEFCE-funded Flexible Learning Pathfinder Projects. York, England: The Higher Education Academy (HEA). Available at: https://www.heacademy.ac.uk/node/3527 [Accessed 17.3.2015].

Flexible Learning: New Pedagogical Ideas

Source: The Higher Education Academy (HEA)
Source: The Higher Education Academy (HEA)

This is the fifth in a short series of posts on the work undertaken by the Higher Education Academy (HEA) on flexible learning.


The report on new pedagogical ideas (Ryan & Tilbury, 2013) is the third in a short series of complementary reports from the HEA that go under the banner of “flexible pedagogies”. The report is guided by the HEA’s overarching research question:

Why and to what extent might flexible pedagogies be promoted, and in what ways?

The report considers the relationship between flexibility and pedagogy in terms of core purposes and modes of participation for teaching and learning in Higher Education (HE). Flexible provision has the potential to open up more democratic and emancipatory approaches to learning and teaching, which can be “obscured by technological ‘mist’” (Ryan & Tilbury, 2013:4).

New Pedagogical Ideas

Following an extensive literature review and consultation with key informants involved in HE teaching and learning, the report’s authors develop the following six “new pedagogical ideas”:

  1. learner empowerment – actively involving students in learning development and processes of ‘co-creation’ that challenge current learning relationships and the power frames that underpin them (cfPartners in Learning’);
  2. future-facing education – an educational vision concerned with enabling people to think critically, creatively and flexibly about future prospects, to generate alternative visions of future possibilities, to initiate action in pursuit of those visions (cfFutures Initiatives’);
  3. decolonising education – concerned with deconstructing dominant pedagogical perspectives which promote singular worldviews to extend the inter-cultural understanding and experiences of students (cf ‘Internationalisation’, ‘Inclusive Curriculum’);
  4. transformative capabilities – creates an educational focus beyond an emphasis solely on knowledge and understanding towards agency and competence, towards more engaged approaches to learning;
  5. crossing boundaries – taking an integrative and systemic approach to pedagogy in HE, to generate inter-disciplinary, inter-professional and cross-sectoral learning to maximise collaboration and shared perspectives; and
  6. social learning – developing cultures and environments for learning to harness the emancipatory power of spaces and interactions outside the formal curriculum, can draw upon new technologies and co-curricular activities (cfAugustine House’).

The six new pedagogical ideas identified by the authors were selected on the basis of four key considerations:

  • they are geared towards the ‘bigger picture’ and future strategic innovation in the curriculum;
  • they are ‘novel’ in the sense that they are not commonly practiced across HE;
  • they demonstrate pedagogical concern with ‘flexibility’ in their focus on enabling learners to anticipate; and
  • they aim to reposition education, by making use of democratic and inclusive learning practices and drawing on pedagogies that can support change and innovation.

Concluding Remarks

In framing their conclusion, the report’s authors recognised that in order for HE to deliver flexible provision, it needed to acknowledge that both tutor and learner needed flexibility across several levels to be able to address societal, economic and environmental issues in an increasingly globalised world (GUNI 2011).

It should be borne in mind that these six new pedagogical ideas are not limited to the confines of a classroom or learning context, but are able to refresh and revitalise the pedagogy of the institution and the HE system as a whole to gain traction across different subjects and in terms of the broader university learning experience. The authors note that there are potential links between the flexibility in the learner and the flexibility in the pedagogies, links that can only come to light through the tutor and their approach to the “learning dynamic”. There are also opportunities to expand scholarship to explore at conceptual, empirical and theoretical levels how these new pedagogies are posited within the flexible learning discourse. However, they are mindful that:

…not all of these efforts bring democratisation and empowerment into the learning process, or foster adaptability and inclusivity in learners and educators – attributes which will be at the heart of any ‘flexible pedagogy’ in future HE that is worthy of the label. (Ryan & Tilbury, 2013:31)


GUNI. (2011). Higher Education in the World 4: Higher Education’s Commitment to Sustainability: from Understanding to Action. Barcelona, Spain: Global Universities Network for Innovation (GUNI).

Ryan, A. & Tilbury, D. (2013). Flexible Pedagogies: New Pedagogical Ideas. York, England: The Higher Education Academy (HEA). Available at: https://www.heacademy.ac.uk/flexible-pedagogies-new-pedagogical-ideas [Accessed 17.3.2015].

Flexible Learning: Employer Engagement

Source: The Higher Education Academy (HEA)
Source: The Higher Education Academy (HEA)

This is the fourth in a short series of posts on the work undertaken by the Higher Education Academy (HEA) on flexible learning.


The report on employer engagement and work-based learning (WBL) (Kettle, 2013) is the second in a short series of complementary reports from the HEA that go under the banner of “flexible pedagogies”. The report is guided by the HEA’s overarching research question:

Why and to what extent might flexible pedagogies be promoted, and in what ways?

The report makes reference to Leitch Report (Leitch, 2006) which highlighted the need for considerable improvement in skills at intermediate and higher levels if the United Kingdom (UK) was to remain competitive globally. Another reference was the recent Wilson Report (Wilson, 2012) which reinforced the need for stronger relationships between business and higher education (HE).

Moreover, a number of agendas (e.g. the Higher Ambitions report and the Students at the Heart of the System white paper) have been outlined by the present and previous UK governments. These have highlighted the importance of graduate skills and emphasised the need for HE providers to improve collaborative relationships with employers.

Defining ‘Employer Engagement’ and ‘Work-Based Learning’

According to the report (Kettle, 2013), employer engagement is best defined “as a range of activities, initiatives and approaches which are best conceptualised as a continuum” (p.4). Though it was noted that the term tended to be “nuanced” and was often “contested”.

However, the notion of employer engagement also encapsulates responsive teaching and learning developments for up-skilling and developing people already in work and fostering capability and attributes to enhance the employability of students in HE.

This definition has led towards a “typology of learners”:

  • The Model 1 Learner are already at work, they are employees and therefore have a dual identity; and
  • The Model 2 Learner are using a work-related learning activity to develop their knowledge, skills and understanding.

Thus, there is a three-way relationship between the higher education provider, the earner and the employer.

Finally, the report draws on the work of Brennan and Little (1996) in attempting to define work-based learning (WBL):

…linking learning to the work role, but this does not only mean preparing for a specific job. Three strands have been identified: learning for work, learning at work, and learning through work. (ibid., 1996:8)

The Report’s Recommendations

The report argues that considerable resources have been directed towards the employer engagement agenda and that the work-based learning aspect of it is enjoying considerable attention. In conclusion, the report’s author (Kettle, 2013) recommends that:

  • the academic community continues to identify and evaluate evidence-informed pedagogic approaches to both work-related and work-based learning;
  • institutional strategies for learning and teaching, including the use of ICT systems and web 2.0 technologies, are reviewed to assess the connections between these and the way teaching staff utilise and develop flexible pedagogies in the context of employer engagement;
  • examples of whole institutional approaches to employer engagement should be identified and explored within the context of the continuum outlined here to further the discussion around flexible pedagogies; and
  • evidence of student engagement with the development and delivery of flexible learning approaches for both work-based learning and work-related learning should be evaluated.


Brennan, J. & Little, B. (1996). A Review of Work Based Learning in Higher Education. Sheffield, England: Department for Education and Employment (DfEE). Available at: http://oro.open.ac.uk/11309/ [Accessed 17.3.2015].

Kettle, J. (2013). Flexible Pedagogies: Employer Engagement and Work-Based Learning. York, England: The Higher Education Academy (HEA). Available at: https://www.heacademy.ac.uk/flexible-pedagogies-employer-engagement-and-work-based-learning [Accessed 17.3.2015].

Leitch, S. (2006). Prosperity for all in the Global Economy – World Class Skills, (The Leitch Report) London, England: Her Majesty’s Stationery Office (HMSO). Available at: http://webarchive.nationalarchives.gov.uk/20070701082906/http://www.hm-treasury.gov.uk/independent_reviews/leitch_review/review_leitch_index.cfm [Accessed 17.3.2015].

Wilson, T. (2012). A Review of Business–University Collaboration, (The Wilson Report). London, England: Department for Business, Innovation and Skills. Available at: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/business-university-collaboration-the-wilson-review [Accessed 17.3.2015].

Flexible Learning: Part-Time Learners

Source: The Higher Education Academy (HEA)
Source: The Higher Education Academy (HEA)

This is the third in a short series of posts on the work undertaken by the Higher Education Academy (HEA) on flexible learning.


The report on part-time learners and learning (McLinden, 2013) is the first in a short series of complementary reports from the HEA that go under the banner of “flexible pedagogies”. The reports presents, for the first time, the overarching research question that is underpinning the HEA’s flexible learning theme:

Why and to what extent might flexible pedagogies be promoted, and in what ways?

This report, and other reports in the series, frame and position its responses against the overarching research question and draws upon the three “main dimensions” of flexible learning that supports pace (e.g. accelerated and decelerated degrees), place (e.g. work-based learning and employer engagement), and mode of learning (e.g. technology-enhanced learning).

The report (McLinden, 2013) notes that recent government reforms (e.g. BIS, 2011) places the student experience at the very ‘heart’ of Higher Education with institutions expected to deliver a quality student experience, improving teaching, assessment and feedback, as well as preparing students for the world of work. It is against this backdrop that the report considers the changing role of part-time learners as the once-traditional division between full-time and part-time learners is becoming increasingly blurred with students looking to structure their study time around work and family commitments.

Defining ‘Part-Time Learners’

Like flexible learning, there is no single definition of part-time learners or part-time learning. However, a commonly used definition in the United Kingdom (UK) is provided by the Higher Education Statistics Agency (HESA) and “includes students [who are] recorded as studying part-time, or studying full-time on courses lasting less than 24 weeks, on block release, or studying during the evenings only” (HESA, 2012).

However, the report recognises that notions of ‘full-time’ or ‘part-time’ will not be able to record the nuances of different study modes that exist across the sector (i.e. sandwich course).

Profiling ‘Part-Time Learners’

Drawing from a recent HEFCE report, this reports presents a profile of the part-time student population in England:

  • likely to be non-traditional learners and tend to be mature;
  • one in four students in undergraduate study have no qualifications above GCSE or equivalent (or no qualifications at all);
  • young students from disadvantaged backgrounds were twice as likely as the most advantaged young students to choose part-time study;
  • around two-thirds of part-time students have caring or family commitments;
  • reduction in part-time numbers will have a disproportionate effect on certain groups of students.

Flexible Learning Provision for ‘Part-Time Learners’

In the report’s concluding section, it suggests four main, yet intersecting, strategies to open up higher education opportunities to prospective students who would have ordinarily been prevented from studying by such barriers as family commitments or employment:

  • using digital technologies to deliver teaching online;
  • revising pedagogic practices;
  • providing flexibility in course scheduling / structures and professional experience (or placements);
  • ensuring more accepting and open attitudes to learner diversity.

On a positive note, the report suggested that the UK HE sector was becoming more responsive in “recognising and understanding the broader pedagogical needs relating to part-time study”.


BIS. (2011). Higher Education: Students at the Heart of the System. London, England: Department of Business Innovation and Skills (BIS). Available at: https://www.gov.uk/government/consultations/higher-education-white-paper-students-at-the-heart-of-the-system [Accessed 17.3.2015].

HESA. (2012). Definitions for Students and Qualifiers Statistics. Cheltenham, England: Higher Education Statistics Agency (HESA). Available at: https://www.hesa.ac.uk/content/view/1902/#mode [Accessed 17.3.2015].

McLinden, M. (2013). Flexible Pedagogies: Part-Time Learners and Learning in Higher Education. York, England: The Higher Education Academy (HEA). Available at: https://www.heacademy.ac.uk/flexible-pedagogies-part-time-learners-and-learning-higher-education [Accessed 17.3.2015].

Flexible Learning: The Summit

Source: The Higher Education Academy (HEA)
Source: The Higher Education Academy (HEA)

This is the second in a short series of posts on the work undertaken by the Higher Education Academy (HEA) on flexible learning.


The HEA organised a Flexible Learning Summit in Leeds on 31 October and 1 November 2011. The summit brought together practitioners from across the Higher Education (HE) sector in the United Kingdom (UK) who had experience of innovative practice of different flexible learning provisions.

The purpose of the summit was to enable practitioners to identify the key enablers and barriers to the “main dimensions” of flexible learning; and to ascertain whether there were any inter-related issues that were common across the “main dimensions” that could be strategically addressed at institutional and national policy levels. The conclusions and recommendations from the summit were set out in a report (Tallantyre, 2011).

Defining ‘Flexibility’

It had already been noted in the final Flexible Learning Pathfinders (FLP) report (Outram, 2011) that definitions of flexible learning tended to “vary and are often too general or nebulous”. The HEA chose to “define flexible learning in terms of offering students choice in the pace, place and mode of learning”. Thus, the three “main dimensions” of flexible learning are:

  • Pace – This encapsulates such issues as accelerated and decelerated programmes; part-time learning; recognition of prior learning (i.e. APEL); and associated use of credit frameworks.
  • Place – Although this is mainly concerned with work-based learning (WBL), it can include the role of private providers of higher education; Further Education (FE) provision; and recognition that technology-enabled learning (TEL) can enable flexibility across national and international boundaries.
  • Mode of Learning – This is concerned with the role of learning technologies in enhancing flexibility and enriching the student experience. It also encapsulates distance learning (DL), blended learning (BL) as well as synchronous and asynchronous modes of learning.

The report (Tallantyre, 2011) acknowledged that the three “main dimensions” of flexible learning were informed by the need to ensure that learning was “responsive to the requirements and choices of an increasingly diverse and demanding body of learners” and were “driven by the requirements and preferences of learners or sponsors of learning (e.g. employers)”.

The Summit’s Recommendations

Informed by the various barriers and enablers to flexible learning provision that was identified during the course of the summit, a set of fourteen recommendations for actions were proposed by the Summit delegates. Their recommendations are directed to government and funding bodies, national bodies, and senior institutional managers to consider and act upon. These recommendations included:

  • the development of new funding frameworks that take in to account of credits delivered rather than years of study;
  • encouraging national bodies like UCAS, HEA, QAA and JISC to collaborate to produce evidence-based guides for potential learners and institutional staff on flexible learning provision;
  • the HEA to support the development of higher education continued professional development (CPD) programmes to promote best practices in flexible provision which is aligned to the UK Professional Standards Framework;
  • senior managers encouraged to lead on effective resource allocation, review roles and workload implications, and prompt the development of appropriate frameworks and policies which support reward and recognition in the delivery of flexible learning.


Outram, S. (2011). Final Evaluation of the HEFCE-funded Flexible Learning Pathfinder Projects. York, England: The Higher Education Academy (HEA). Available at: https://www.heacademy.ac.uk/node/3527 [Accessed 17.3.2015].

Tallantyre, F. (2011). Flexible Learning Summit Report. York, England: The Higher Education Academy (HEA). Available at: https://www.heacademy.ac.uk/resources/detail/flexible-learning/Flexible_Learning_Summit_Report [Accessed 17.3.2015].