Parallel Sessions 1: 11.15 – 12.15

PAPERS (25 minutes each)

11.15 – 11.40

Still learning together in lockdown
Lucinda Becker
University of Reading

One of the most difficult aspects of lockdown has been the sense of disrupted conversations: the students you wanted to remind about how to plan an essay, the query you heard in a seminar that you want to answer now that you have thought about it. As a Director of Teaching and Learning for a School of Literature and Languages, I was responsible for taking an overview of the development of teaching and learning for our students; I was also in the process of having these conversations with students in all years of their degrees and within our three different departments when lockdown arrived. I realised that I needed to find a way to stay in touch with students, particularly those who might be worried about their general academic development. I wanted to reassure our students across all three departments that we are still here, and we are as keen to stay in touch as they are. I set up a YouTube channel, called Still Learning Together, and then I uploaded short screencasts to the channel three times a week over the Spring vacation on aspects of learning. The channel was advertised with each new entry through emails to all students in our departments, which risked email fatigue but was at least guaranteed to reach all in-boxes. Publicising more effectively is part of my planning for future, similar activity. There were over a thousand hits on the channel during the first lockdown, and I am keen to discuss what it has led to so far in terms of learning development, and to explore ideas about how this sort of activity might be developed in future.

Using magic performance to conjure up and develop critical thinking skills
Paul Rice, Amy West, Karin Johnson
University of Northampton

Attendees of this session are asked to watch this 5 minute video in advance.

Developing critical thinking skills of students is key across all subject areas. This session reflects upon a workshop which aimed to use the performance of magic to develop critical thinking skills in an engaging, fun and accessible learning environment. Using magic is a relatively novel concept although using metaphor as a pedagogical aid is not. The aim of the project was to make learning dualistic so that students gain meaning and remember the elements of critical thinking. Without the use of magic performance as metaphor student would be faced with an abstract concept. A workshop was developed using the ‘Illusion’ of a magic trick, as a metaphor, to help students unpack how and why not everything they see is real. A magic trick, relies on sleight of hand, the assumptions that observers make and misdirection. Students witnessed the performance of a simple trick. The ‘trickery’ of the illusion was revealed and students were involved in a discussion and analysis about the elements that were used to persuade them. Students reflected on how they felt once they knew they had been tricked and then discussed the ways in which an academic paper can ‘cheat’ the reader and devised their own strategies to be analytical thinkers. To evaluate the effectiveness of this workshop and the development of critical thinking skills, students were given a pre-and post-test. Results of these test will be reported in this session and feedback from the students who participated will be provided to delegates, and you might even get a chance to see the trick itself.

Creating and Embedding a Critical Thinking MOOC: A blended approach to academic socialisation and student success
Jiani Liu and Jade Chao
University of Leeds

We recently developed a MOOC, Critical Thinking at University, with the intention to give students a common understanding of what thinking critically means at university level, and to offer practical strategies to help them develop relevant skills. The MOOC is the first interdisciplinary, open online course that teaches critical thinking as an academic and lifelong skill, rather than as a philosophical discipline. It gives students a foundation for their academic studies, whatever their chosen discipline at university. Nominated for LILAC Digital Award 2019 and made to the all-time top 100 on Class Central, the MOOC has proven to be a valuable addition to Skills@Library’s academic skills provision, and has had broader appeal than we had expected. Although first year undergraduate students were our primary intended audience, there has been substantial interest from academic leads in embedding the resource into their Masters programmes. The experience of creating the MOOC has enriched our understanding of digital education, deepened our expertise in the topic area of critical thinking skills, and therefore better enabled us to advocate learning development. This paper will share how we created the MOOC, the lessons we learnt from the process of development, and the challenges we have been facing in evaluating the MOOC’s impact on our students’ learning. We will also show how the materials could be embedded or re-purposed in teaching and 1:1s, which will hopefully inspire peer learning developers to use the MOOC content in their context. Finally, we will discuss why we think the MOOC is widely accepted, and how this has changed our views on the value of MOOCs as platforms to deliver academic skills.

11.50 – 12.15

Small Private Online Courses (SPOCs) for flexible learning
Paul Chin
Liverpool John Moores University

Small Private Online Courses (SPOCs) for flexible learning SPOCs mirror the principle of a MOOC (Massive Open Online Course) but are focussed around smaller internal communities and have a number of differences. Whilst MOOCs typically address large volume open access knowledge development (often with large dropouts), SPOCs can help address more targeted skills development opportunities, providing support at the point of need. This paper will discuss the outcomes of piloting two SPOCs, each addressing skills development needs for students but in different contexts. Given the sudden shift to remote learning this academic year, the authors created a SPOC on their Canvas VLE to showcase core online study services available to students. This ran as a University-wide self-enrol course and was designed to help students engage asynchronously at times that suited them. The course attracted 150 students from a range of different disciplines and nationalities. Alongside this, the authors also ran another SPOC specifically for a group of 100 MA students as part of their course, consisting of full and part time students. So the marketing and motivation was different for each SPOC. The principle of delivery for both SPOCs was the same, to run an asynchronous course with some live sessions whereby students could engage at their convenience, recognising the challenges remote learners may face. The context of each SPOC addressed different purposes however, with potential different student motivations. Results from engagement of the SPOCs showed high engagement with content but also some valuable learning points, such as low community engagement. This paper will showcase the broader findings and highlight recommendations for running future SPOCs that address different needs. This includes consideration for content delivery, community engagement, student expectations, and distance or commuter learners.

The Learning Theory Project: Using dogs to support student learning
Isabelle Brent, Anna Taylor
Bader International Study Centre, Queen’s University

This paper summarises a pilot study of a project designed to use experiential learning principles to increase first-year students’ understanding of learning theory and to encourage transferable learning to support study strategies. Students were introduced to principles of learning theory using dogs (belonging to faculty) to supplement an introductory psychology class. Interested students were then assigned the role of dog trainer over the course of the semester and were required to teach the dog a new behaviour using principles from learning theory with the support of the instructor. Students committed to weekly training sessions and submitted regular reflections on their learning and progress. Results from the weekly reflections and student feedback indicates the project not only increased student understanding of learning theory, but also provided the students with a space to think about their own learning. In particular, the ongoing work with the dogs helped students address issues relating to perfectionism and resilience that often present challenges for first-year university students. This project supplements the current interest in the therapeutic use of dogs in higher education, extending the discussion to how dogs can contribute to experiential learning and support student awareness of their own learning strategies. The project offers a model of learning that can be incorporated in both curricular and co-curricular opportunities and suggestions are made for how to do this in future programs.

Supporting students with blended learning: A review of our online course developed in response to Covid-19
Sonia Hood
University of Reading

In the summer of 2020, it became clear that the University of Reading would be taking a blended learning approach to teaching in the autumn term. Questions were raised as to how students would know what technology to use and develop the skills to learn effectively in this new environment – and whose responsibility it was to support students with navigating this. It became clear a collaborative approach was needed; if not, we would risk creating multiple projects or, even worse, have nothing at all to offer to our students. Representatives from Study Advice, Counselling and Wellbeing, Technology Enhance Learning and Academic Enhancement came together with our Online Course Team and Back to Uni was born: an online course using the FutureLearn platform. A ‘road map’ of the course was designed collaboratively focusing on two broad areas: ‘teaching’ – how this will be delivered; and ‘learning’ – strategies to support blended learning. Videos, articles, quizzes and discussion questions were developed by the various teams and placed on the online platform. In Welcome Week, returning students were invited to enrol, access the resources and engage in the online, mediated discussions. This collaborative approach was a successful one but not without its issues. And, while the online course was the most effective approach given the time constraints, there remains questions as to whether this was the optimum delivery method for students at this time. This paper will offer an overview of how this course was developed and received, and consider implications for those seeking to run similar courses in the future.

WORKSHOPS (60 minutes)

Not seeing the wood for the trees: Encouraging active reading
Laura Barclay
University of Portsmouth
Wild card

In this session I would like to invite delegates to be the student and take part in an ‘active reading’ exercise that I have developed. With their ‘student hat’ on, participants will be asked to read a short fairytale and to keep the text secret from their fellow ‘students’. After three minutes, the texts will be taken away and participants will be asked to work in small groups to answer a set of questions about the story that they have just read. These discussions will (hopefully!) reveal some interesting answers and stimulate some lively discussions. Next, with their ‘practitioner hat’ on, participants will consider why these particular questions have been asked – what do we want students to think about before, when and after reading? The answers and ideas will be fed back to the whole group in order to compare responses and discuss any issues and/or ideas for developing the activity further. When going through the questions, I will explain my rationale behind creating the activity and welcome constructive feedback on how this activity could be developed. This activity has been used during small workshops with Level 5 and Level 7 students, but can be adapted for any level of study and any subject area. (This version of the activity has been influenced by feedback from colleagues at the ‘Storytelling in Learning Development’ regional symposium at University of Portsmouth in September 2019 and was adapted for an LD@3 presentation in May 2020.)

Let’s talk about race: Exploring race, culture and identity through literature
Karen Lipsedge
Kingston University

Building on the conference theme of ‘Embedding Diversity’, my workshop will focus on the Kingston University Reading Group, which was created in 2016 as a means of facilitating discussion on culture and identity to promote race equality and enhance the University’s work to embed EDI at the heart of our institution. As I argue, reading and discussing literature with others can cross cultural boundaries and open-up focussed exchanges around equality, diversity and inclusion. The aim of the Kingston University Reading Group is to improve support and retention for students across the community as part of an accessible and inclusive curriculum. It also encourages professional development by enhancing our staff’s communication skills in race, equality and inclusivity. This workshop will demonstrate how academic reading groups on campuses in the UK offer a new way of engaging diverse groups of university staff and students, as well as community stakeholders, and assisting staff to use multiple culturally sensitive techniques when teaching and assessing student learning. Using the Kingston University Reading Group as a case study, the workshop will also demonstrate how reading groups can generate cross disciplinary student engagement through cultural learning and foster a sense of community and belonging to enhance student participation and success. At a time when the need to address systemic racism and social injustice is more pressing than ever, the opportunity for staff and students to use literature as a stepping-stone for talking about race, identity, and equality is even more important.

The mechanics of digital wellbeing in HE: Beyond Google Garage
Debbie Holley, Anne Quinney, Ben Goldsmith
Bournemouth University

Digital wellbeing’ is one of the fast emerging ‘hot topics’ for HE institutions, evident in its new prominence in Jisc’s DigCap (digital capabilities) and the EU’s digital competencies framework (DigComp). Work undertaken by Biggins et al (2017) points to gaps around digital wellbeing and future CPD. Current commercially created resources on digital wellbeing tend to be a series of apps and webpages, (often using images of white, female, middle aged women holding cups of tea (cf ) that typically (and paradoxically) suggest ways of digital detox, as if disconnection somehow magically produces ‘digital wellbeing’. Such resources typically do not address, what an EU project on wellbeing describes as “peer pressure, cyber-bullying, oversharing of personal information [which] can all cause significant problems, inhibiting a young person’s development as a confident online learner and citizen.” (EU Digital Wellbeing 2019) The question for us then becomes: How do and how should HE providers of digital technologies for enhancing learning address, respond to, and mitigate these problems, and how can we ensure that our digital practices are inclusive and equitable? Learning developers, with their student facing and staff development role, are often working ‘in between’ spaces – neither academic, nor librarian, nor IT services. They are pivotal in signposting, creating and sharing resources that support our students (and staff) across a range of topics. They can play vital roles in leading HE institutions’ deep engagement with digital wellbeing by ‘baking in’ acknowledgement, recognition and consideration for student and staff life-long learning, development and well-being to the resources they develop and share. This session invites Learning Developers to share examples of current best practice, and to co-design and frame the boundaries of a resource, which will be created for the LearnHigher Repository.

Session plan: 

  • 10 minutes background to existing literature and resources 
  • 30 minutes in groups of 6 scaffolded co-creation of key design aspects based on design-based research principles (McKenney and Reeves 2012) 
  • 10 minutes groups presenting back 
  • 5 minutes to share ideas for next steps – we want to create a group interested in taking the resource through to development, but this is not a requirement for attending workshop   


  • Biggins, D., Holley, D. and Zezulkova, M., 2017. Digital Competence and Capability Frameworks in Higher Education: Importance of Life-long Learning, Self-Development and Well-being. EAI Endorsed Transactions on e-Learning, 4 (13). 
  • Digital Wellbeing Educators Promoting the Digital Wellbeing of Students (2019) EU Erasmus Plus available online [accessed 10/11/2019] 
  • McKenney, S., and Reeves, T., 2012. Conducting Educational Design Research New York: Routledge