Conferences… and blog closure

October 2nd, 2008

This is the final blog posting for this blog… but we will keep the blog open for now as a record of Pathfinder activity during the funded phase, and have a link to it from our Pathfinder website.

The summer was hectic and included a round of conference and dissemination activity, not to mention report writing for the HEA. The following summarises some of the events we’ve presented at in relation to Pathfinder:

Networked Learning Conference 08, Greece, 5-6 May 08
Developing an Evidence Base for Engagement and Impact in Higher Education Institutional e-Learning Projects
Poster presentation on change processes. Joint abstract with Pathfinder cluster (Reading, Brunel, Cambridge and LSBU).

Blackboard World Europe 08, Manchester, 12-14 May 08
Using Blackboard AS to drive forward programme delivery within a University wide strategy for enhancement: a case study
Poster presentation

SOLSTICE Conference 08, Edge Hill University, 5 June 08
Embedding e-learning through the use and reciprocation of student feedback

Third International Blended Learning Conference, The University of Herfordshire: ‘Enhancing the Student Experience’, 18-19 June 08
A strategic approach to embedding e-learning at programme level to enhance the student experience: a case study

HEA Pathfinder closing event, City University, June 26 08
Making a difference – Thematic Perspectives: Strategic Change Management

EdMedia 2008, Vienna, 30 June – 4 July 08
1. A Framework for Institutional Change – DIRECT: Driving Institutional Reform: Exploring Change with Technology
Paper accepted for publication in the proceedings

2. Variations on themes: four universities explore strategies that generate evidence-informed embedding of e-learning in their local context
(Symposium: Reading, Brunel, Cambridge and LSBU)

HEA Conference, Harrogate, 1-3 July 08
Sharing a vision: student participation in programme enhancement

Learning & Teaching Conference, University of Reading, 8-9 July 08
How the Pathfinder process can help you through Periodic Review and beyond
Discussion led by Pathfinder panel

ALT-C 08, Leeds, 9-11 Sept 08
Strategies for adopting an evidence-based approach to embedding e-learning
Interactive poster presentation on change processes
Joint abstract with Pathfinder cluster (Reading, Brunel, Cambridge and LSBU)

14th Annual Sloan-C Conference on Online Learning, Florida, USA, 5-7 Nov 08
 Moving beyond the “champions”: a framework to engage faculty with blended environments

Pathfinder Videos

October 2nd, 2008

As part of the Pathfinder website we have included three videos for information

Video 1 – Ginny Gibson, Faculty Director of Teaching and Learning for Economics and Social Sciences. Ginny highlights the thinking behind Pathfinder and how it fits into the wider University Learning and Teaching strategy.

Video 2 – Pete Jefferys, Vice President Education 2007/8, Students Union. Pete highlights how the Students’ Union have supported the work of the Pathfinder and

Video 3 – Philip Giddings, Head of School, Politics and International Relations, outlines some of the benefits of Pathfinder from the School perspective, having worked with us as our first pilot, in the lead up to their Periodic Review.

The videos can be viewed on our Pathfinder website.

QA/QE SIG event

June 17th, 2008

Quality assurance and quality enhancement in e-learning: practitioners moving from a QA to QE agenda

On 9th May we hosted a QA/QE SIG start up event at our Innovations Lab here in Reading. The strong interest in this area was demonstrated at the HEA Pathfinder meeting in York in February when a number of institutions expressed interest in collaborating.

The SIG was organised by a core team consisting of the Universities of Reading, Derby, Sunderland, Teeside and London – the Institute of Education and the Centre for Distance Education. Alongside a shared interest in using technology to enhance the quality of learning, teaching and assessment, the group also share a particular focus in their Pathfinder projects of moving from a QA to a QE agenda.

We were delighted to welcome so many participants from different institutions, along with David Cairns and Gill Clarke from the QAA, and Derek Morrison from the HEA. We had a busy day and fitted a great deal in – including discussions to elicit views of the participants on the purpose and value of such a SIG, to develop a shared mission along with priorities and activities, and to plan the next steps.

At that meeting the following draft mission statement was developed:
”Energising and making QA-QE relevant to everyday practice in enhancing teaching and learning through technology”

This mission statement will be developed and a final version hopefully agreed over the next couple of months. There will be a meeting of the Steering Group of the SIG at the HEA Benchmarking & Pathfinder meeting on 26th June in London.

If you wish to be kept informed about the activities of the SIG, then please join the JISCmail list SQ QE SIG by going to:

For more information on the Network Project and the QA-QE SIG, see also:

To view Peter Chatterton’s photos from the day, visit:

Cluster papers accepted

April 28th, 2008

We’re delighted to receive confirmation that our cluster’s interactive workshop has been accepted at ALT-C. We submitted a proposal entitled: Strategies for adopting an evidence-based approach to embedding e-learning.  We aim to present the outcomes from our four Pathfinder funded projects, exploring success factors and barriers for strategic embedding of e-learning, addressing four key themes: quality enhancement, staff development, developing pedagogy and using an evidence-based approach, reflecting on the implications for the future. 

We’ve also had two other conference proposals accepted as a cluster. A poster session at the Networked Learning Conference in Greece in May entitled: Developing an Evidence Base for Engagement and Impact in Higher Education Institutional e-Learning Projects, and one at the EdMedia Conference in Vienna in July entitled: Variations on themes: four universities explore strategies that generate evidence-informed embedding of e-learning in their local context.

These conferences will be a good excuse to meet up again!

Cluster Meeting at the University of Brunel

April 25th, 2008

On Wednesday we travelled to Brunel for our fourth and final cluster meeting – during the past year we have managed to meet at all four institutions: LSBU, Cambridge, Reading and Brunel. We had yet another productive day and a delicious lunch!

We reflected on progress and challenges, looking back at what we’ve achieved on our projects during this year, and how we plan to take them forward. We also planned for the EdMedia Symposium we’ve had accepted as a cluster in July, and agreed some titles and outlines for briefing papers.  All in all a very productive day!

We were happy to see each other again, but sorry that this was our final cluster meeting and hope that the relationship we’ve established will help us to continue our collaboration in various ways in the future. 

Here we are working hard…


 And here’s a picture of Grainne, our excellent Critical Friend and facilitator for our cluster meetings – here she is typing furiously, trying to capture all our ideas!


And a lovely photo of our hosts, Natalie, Anu and Phil from Brunel:


And a picture of Maria, modelling our cluster poster (designed by Ruth Brown from LSBU) for the Networked Learning Conference 08:


Embedding Pathfinder

April 11th, 2008

Back in December we reported on the institutional embedding of the Pathfinder DIRECT approach here at the University of Reading. The proposed revisions are now part of the University’s quality enhancement procedures and all departments will now be supported by the Pathfinder framework, which will support them through periodic review and beyond. The articulation of the Pathfinder DIRECT process and Periodic Review is highlighted on the University Quality Support website under ‘Periodic Review 2008/9 onwards’.

The institutional embedding of Pathfinder as a key enhancement process within the quality management structures is great news. Although the end of the Pathfinder project is in sight the hard work will continue past the project phase as we enter the roll-out of our new approach.

Additional pilot for the Graduate Institute of Politics and International Studies

April 4th, 2008

We have now finished the additional pilot we conducted on behalf of the Graduate Institute of Politics and International Studies (GIPIS). This work grew out of the positive feedback from the School of Politics following our first pilot for them, in particular the usefulness of the review of undergraduate programmes we carried out.

We have also provided a contextual review report for GIPIS complete with competitor analysis and student survey and focus group findings. It was satisfying for our team to be able to report back some very positive messages to GIPIS, in particular that students are highly appreciative of the expertise of their academic tutors and the range of interesting modules offered. The findings of this report is now informing their discussions about future developments, particularly with regard to teaching and learning approaches, and how they market themselves to prospective students.

Involvement with Pathfinder extension projects

April 4th, 2008

The University of Hertfordshire’s CABLE workshop
We are delighted that the University of Hertfordshire’s Blended Learning Unit will be delivering a ‘train the trainers’ one day planning event + two day CABLE workshop here at Reading.

The CABLE workshop is a change process model based on the Change Academy approach. The CABLE team work in partnership with Schools to support academics in seeking their own solutions to change and to embed these within academic plans so that change is sustainable. The workshops can be tailored to support curriculum re-design for blended learning, but they can also be adapted for other change processes.

We’re excited about this opportunity and look forward to the event, which is scheduled for the autumn term; work is now underway to prepare the project teams for this.

Institution of Education Quality Enhancement workshops
Reading have been invited to collaborate with the Institute of Education to deliver 6 workshops on “Effective application of Quality Assurance & Enhancement procedures to courses that use e-learning”. The aim of the workshop is to:

  • facilitate participants’ discussion around the issues affecting the effective application of internal quality assurance procedures in e-learning courses in Higher Education
  • examine the internal quality assurance procedures in place in the institution for e-learning courses to identify their role in assuring and enhancing the quality of the programmes
  • offer the opportunity to discuss the main factors that affect the enhancement function of internal procedures and the strategies that could be implemented to improve their effectiveness. 

The workshops are aimed at staff in both central units and at faculty/school level in positions of responsibility for:

  • quality assurance/quality enhancement and teaching and learning (e.g. directors, officers, managers)
  • staff supporting the development and embedding of e-learning in teaching and learning
  • e-learning courses’ quality assurance (e.g. e-learning course leaders).

This is a really interesting collaborative project, the workshops are being designed and delivered with Magdalena Jara and Harvey Mellor (the Institute of Education), Dave O’Hare (the University of Derby), Eileen Webb (the University of Teeside), Brian Sayer (the University of London), and us at the University of Reading.

At the last Pathfinder meeting in York, in February, strong interest was expressed in forming a SIG (Special Interest Group) in QA/QE in e-learning – with a particular focus on moving from a QA (quality assurance) to QE (quality enhancement) agenda.
A group of Universities – the Institute of Education, the University of London, Teeside, Derby, Sunderland and Reading – together with Peter Chatteron, a Pathfinder critical friend, have got together to develop a workshop to launch a SIG in QA/QE. This is being held on the 9th May 2008 (10.30-16.00), and is being hosted by us in Reading at our Innovations Lab. The aim of the SIG is to:

  • share experiences, toolkits and resources
  • provide a peer support network for developing resources, approaches, methodologies and toolkits
  • support in linking research to practice
  • advice feeding into the QAA
  • identify effective practice in changing culture, moving from a QA to a QE agenda.

Although we’re hosting the event, Peter Chatterton is taking overall responsibility for the day – we’re just organising lunch!

Carpe Diem workshop at LSBU, 5th – 6th March

March 19th, 2008

Whilst Clare was discussing the learner experience at Birmingham I was invited to attend a Carpe Diem workshop at London South Bank University. Carpe Diem (Latin for ‘Seize the Day’) has been developed by Gilly Salmon at the University of Leicester and is a two day workshop designed to support academic teams achieve the effective embedding of e-learning within course design. The workshop involves an overview of learning design for a whole course, module or unit.

I observed a workshop with the Media Studies team at LSBU, which focused on two units – Photographic Cultures and Interactive Photography. The workshop was delivered by Alejandro Armellini and Ola Aiyegbayo from Leicester along with Ruth Brown from LSBU. The two days were extremely interesting and challenging, not only did I learn about the Leicester approach, but I also gained some knowledge of photography! One of the workshops’ strengths is the practical outcomes which academic staff can take back to their departments and programmes. This provides a real sense of ownership and allows the contextualisation and embedding of new technologies in programme design.

Over the two days the team developed a blueprint, translated their course into a story board, decided on where e-tivities could support student learning, built prototypes, reality checked the developments and planned for the future. It was a full agenda with the team still having time to discuss many cultural and pedagogical questions about the role of technology enhanced learning and the most appropriate way of embedding it in course delivery. Several areas were discussed in great detail such as choice of technologies, assessment and limitations of blackboard. Getting staff to debate such issues is a useful task itself.

I really enjoyed the workshop. Many thanks to Ruth and the team at LSBU for making me so welcome, and also to Ale and Ola from Leicester for facilitating the session.

First ELESIG Meeting 6th March

March 14th, 2008

I attended the first meeting of the ELESIG – a Special Interest Group for those interested in research into the learner experience, including experience of e-learning.

Rhona Sharpe, from Oxford Brookes, and Helen Beetham, from JISC, spoke in the morning. Rhona reminded us why it’s important to learn more about the student experience.  For example:

  • to assess the impact on students of recent investment in e-learning – in particular MLE/VLEs
  • to highlight voices which are currently under-represented in the literature – for example, ethnic minorities, students with disabilities
  • to explore the implications of changes in ways young people are using technologies
  • to discover unanticipated learner perspectives – issues of emotionality, ownership, etc
  • to make recommendations for learners – e.g. in terms of learning design, for teachers and for their institutions 

Rhona also talked us through the four stages of development Oxford Brookes have gone through so far in integrating a blended learning approach, and this was an interesting story incorporating strategic planning and good support for staff.

Helen Beetham talked about Digital Literacies, examining the learner experience and skills required for effective learning, now and in the future, and this generated some interesting group discussion.

In the afternoon Bekka Currant and Carol Higgison from the University of Bradford presented their developing typology of digital learners, and we were invited to respond to these categories in our groups.  Meanwhile Grainne Conole had been capturing the emerging themes and ideas as the day developed, and she finished off the day by presenting these as a summary of what we’d covered.

Overall it was a good day, with a positive vibe, lots of interest, some good discussion, it was nice to meet some familiar faces, and worth travelling to Birmingham for. An elesig.ning site has been set up to keep the ball rolling.  Many thanks to Malcolm and Rita at Greenwich who had put a lot of work into making the day happen.  The next ELESIG meeting is on 3rd June in Bradford.