Looking Back, Facing Forward (2)

Following on from a blog post that we (SALT) created in January 2016 on New Year’s Resolutions, and given the changes that have taken place in 2017, here in SALT we thought it might be a good idea for some of us to reflect on what we’ve achieved in 2017 and what we hope to achieve in 2018.

This is the second of a series that will be published during January and February, and some of the post will give you the chance to meet some of our newer team members.

Looking Back

image depicting 10 years in SALTI’m now heading into my tenth year as part of the Blackboard/elearning/SALT team.  In those ten years, I’ve seen SALT develop and grow from the 4-strong Blackboard team into the 15 strong SALT team that we are today.

As the team has grown and evolved, so too have our roles.  This has been particularly significant for me as I have changed jobs slightly and now carry more responsibility, which is rewarding in many ways.

Among other things, 2017 saw me take on more mentoring and assessing for the internal Fellowship route, and attending the SAR Panel for the first time as lead assessor for the group of applicants that I assessed.

2017 also led me to design and online course based around the concept of the Flipped Classroom.  This, in turn was designed in a format that I experienced in 2016, through Jane Hart’s “Modern Workplace Learning” course.  You may have seen Jane Hart in last year’s SALT Conference.  (That was the one with the sketchnote by the side).  The flipped classroom CPD module is still running and set to be evaluated in February 2018.

Facing Forward

I’m anticipating several challenges in 2018, but also looking forward to them.

As well as maintaining the current levels of support that we offer in the TEL (Technology Enhanced Learning) team, I would also like to develop further TEL-related CPD, in an online environment, but how this will look will depend on the outcome of the evaluation of the Flipped Classroom.  However, I am keen on the concept of the #1minuteCPD as driven by Manchester Metropolitan University, but maybe adapting it to #10 minute TEL?  Plenty of room to explore.

I also would like to revise my personal blog.  I returned to blogging in 2016 but, like most New Year’s resolutions they tailed off, and I blogged sporadically.  However, I have some strong ideas for reviving the blog, and in order to facilitate some of these ideas I am looking to migrate from the blogger platform to WordPress.

Image of the Internal Combustion Engine
Technology is not the only way: The internal combustion engine was invented in the 19th Century and is still widely used today despite better technology invented in the 20th century such as the electric car

Finally, I am looking forward to working with two of my SALT colleagues, Rhian Ellis and Professor Jane Thomas on an event looking at ways of enhancing traditional teaching.  All too often we expect teachers to innovate, and the majority of people assume that innovations must involve technology, when in fact, sometimes the simplest, or more low-tech technique is often more effective.

Furthermore, are today’s younger generation so immersed in technology that they see teaching without technology as innovative in itself, or whether this is a concept for the future?

Looking Back, Facing Forward – 2018 New Year Blog

[:en]Here in SALT, we thought we’d take a leaf out of PVC Stringer’s book and work on some New Year’s resolutions ourselves.  Kicking off the blog posts is one of our newer team members, Rhian Ellis with her reflections on 2017 and what she’s hoping to achieve in 2018.

What have I achieved?

Rhian Ellis
Rhian Ellis, Academic Developer, CPD Team

In September 2017, I was appointed to Swansea University’s Academy of Learning and Teaching as an Academic Developer, specialising in continued professional development. Getting to know my SALT colleagues and members of the wider University community has been a privilege, while settling into my new role. 2018 is going to be an exciting year! So, what have I learned since being here?

My career development in 2017 has encouraged me to reflect on my identity as a ‘learning teacher’ over a twenty-five year period of great change in education. Not only upon WHAT I have learned, but HOW I learned.  I find Jane Hart’s curated list of current ‘Top Tools for Learning’ most interesting for this. It can be seen here in the video of her keynote speech on ‘Modern Workplace Learning’ at the SALT conference in 2017.

Jane Hart image of tools
Image of tools taken from Jane Hart’s Conference Keynote 2017

I was surprised by how many tools I used daily (and encouraged my learners to use) for many years as a teacher, some of which were introduced in formal CPD sessions e.g. Prezi. I’m now discovering lots of new and useful ones on a weekly basis, often through my everyday interactions with colleagues and academic staff – another key characteristic of the ‘Modern Professional Learner’ celebrated by Jane Hart.  Learning in this more casual way illustrates how CPD is often informal in nature. For example, the tips we get from others and then pass on.

Jane Hart suggests we count how many tools we use regularly in our professional and/or personal life.

When I did this, I realised that I developed my use of digital tools for learning far more than I imagined – even ‘google’ counts!  Since September, I’m now using many more.

This reflection has encouraged me to be open-minded about trying out versatile tools such as ‘Padlet’, introduced to me by my SALT colleagues Debbie Baff and Mandy Jack in their September ‘TEL Month’ workshop. Here is a padlet I recently put together on ‘Feedback and Feedforward’ support.  Look out for workshops on this theme with myself and Suzie Pugh from SALT in 2018, by the way! You can even contribute to the padlet if you wish.

Twitter is another tool I’ve used more for professional reasons in 2017. It featured as the top learning tool in Jane Hart’s research for ten years, only recently being over taken by You Tube.  Twitter was created in 2006 by American founders Jack Dorsey, Noah Glass, Biz Stone and Evan Williams, and now features a lot more than people’s dinner photos… thankfully! Twitter has become a useful platform for endless CPD opportunities, and I’m now a regular Twitter user.

So what are the benefits?

Twitter alone has enabled me to build a ‘trusted professional network’ at, through and for work.  I now have a wealth of information at my fingertips. I have connected with world-leading experts who share current developments in higher education, including newly published research papers, topical issues, shared experience and thought provoking debate.

Using Tweetdeck allows me to coordinate and manage both my personal and SALT twitter accounts with ease.  I took part in my first monthly Tweet chat on it recently, a ‘Peer Coaching’ forum, hosted by SDF.ac.uk. I contributed my experience of ‘peer triads’, and in turn learned about other coaching practices in the UK. @rhianellis3      @susaltteam

Screenshot from Peer Coaching tweetchat
screenshot from Peer Coaching Tweetchat


A big thank you to my very own peer coaches, Louise Rees and Debbie Baff! Louise and Debbie introduced me to SDF.ac.uk, a helpful community of practice (we form a great example of a ‘peer triad’ in action, by the way!). The tweet chat generated useful ideas for future CPD possibilities here at Swansea University.  I’m looking forward to the next chat on ‘Team Coaching’, January 26th 12-1pm.

I’ve also gained many new Twitter followers over recent months, mainly as a result of my retweets and comments. As a result I am developing my ‘on-line identity’, as well as contributing to a wider community of academic development.




Lots of academic staff at Swansea University share my enthusiasm for Twitter and its potential benefits. Connecting with you in this way has enabled me to get to know people’s specialisms, passions and questions. In turn, this can help inform CPD planning from SALT.

Now what…?

My intentions for further use of twitter include:-

  • Sharing expertise through more tweets
  • Refining the use of hashtags # to maximise engagement
  • Continuing to build my professional network
  • Applying my learning to CPD opportunities for academic staff at Swansea University
  • Promoting excellence in teaching and learning in 2018 and beyond

I also intend to devote a controlled amount of time to Twitter/Tweetdeck each week, flexing it around my priorities. One of the disadvantages of twitter is the risk of overspent time. As your profile increases in popularity, people may wish to interact with you more. Mobile devices also tempt frequent checking, so I have set myself strict boundaries.

My work in academic development in 2017 has definitely moved me even further along the ‘visitor-resident’ mode of engagement with digital learning tools, with lots of benefits.

My advice to anyone who may remain ‘on the fence’ about Twitter for CPD (as well digital teaching and learning tools) is to keep an open mind! There’s no obligation to ‘move in’, simply ‘visit’ whenever you choose and see if you find benefits too.

Happy tweeting in 2018 everyone! @rhianellis3 @susaltteam #CPD


Blog created using Rolfe et al’s (2001) Reflective Model.

Rolfe, G. Freshwater, D., Jasper, M. (2001) Critical reflection in nursing and the helping professions: a user’s guide. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.

Other useful references:



Beginners guide to using twitter for educational professional development on You Tube[:]

[:en]Looking for inspiration in your teaching?[:]

[:en]A while ago, I came across a website (via twitter, incidentally) called Learning Wheel.  This particular site is a community site where you can collaborate and share resources or technology that can be used to enhance your teaching or professional development.

Each wheel is split into 4 sections and each section has a series of ‘spokes’.  To quote Learning Wheel themselves:

“LearningWheel is a model of digital pedagogy designed to enhance learning and develop digital literacy skills. It has several unique layers:

  1. Visual pedagogically informed tool
  2. Created by practitioners for practitioner
  3. Categorised in to four pedagogic ‘modes of engagement’
  4. Can be ‘Resource’ specific
  5. Can be ‘Contextualised’ to a subject area
  6. Can be ‘level’ specific
  7. Promote free and accessible digital resources
  8. Collaborative approach
  9. International perspective
  10. Scalability: flexible and adaptable”

There are two that stand out particularly for SALT, and one of these are in the subject resources and is aimed at the trainee teacher, although it’s just as useful for practising teachers too:


The other can be found in the resources section, and is focussed on Assistive Technologies:


There are lots of subject specific wheels too, so have a look.  You may find some useful resources for your discipline!  If you feel you can create one, then there is an option to be the captain of your own learning wheel.

As with all collaborative resources, the resources contained within each of these learning wheels are not necessarily used by Swansea University, but if you are interested in any of these tools and want to know more then SALT would be more than happy to look at some of these with you and suggest alternatives where possible.

If you do use some of these learning wheels, please share it with @learningwheel and also with @susaltteam or contact SALT so that we can promote the good work that is going on, not just in Swansea but further afield.




Learning Innovation Group – a place for learning and innovation?


Being part of the SALT (Swansea Academy for Learning and Teaching) team at Swansea University has its perks, some more obvious than others.

Having attended a meeting of the Learning Innovation Group (LIG) yesterday, I was reminded of some of the reasons I love the job that I do.  I’ll admit, I’m not a big fan of meetings – the thought of sitting down trying to concentrate (both from an engagement and an accessibility point of view) for hours on end is certainly not fun.  But every so often, little nuggets crop up and make them worthwhile.

The topic of the meeting yesterday was “Learning Innovation” and the purpose of the meeting was to find out what was going on within the colleges, to facilitate discussions and try to encourage, nurture and foster collaboration both between the colleges and between SALT and the colleges.


It was heartening to see that innovation wasn’t necessarily perceived as being “techy”, particularly as within SALT we try to promote the ethos of “Pedagogy first, technology last”.  Perhaps it was unfortunate that numbers were low for this meeting (or maybe a blessing in disguise as it enhanced those conversations?) but it was good that the colleges who weren’t able to have representation at the meeting were able to supply valuable insights from within their colleges.

The biggest talking point came from “Flashback Friday” which is a method of encouraging reflection within the School of Management.  It employed a simple technique whereby students are given one question on a Friday and are expected to reflect on that question for the following week.  The concept was simple yet effective.  So simple in fact that it wasn’t regarded as innovative by the lecturer concerned and only identified due to a chance conversation between the lecturer and a member of the SALT team.

Flashback Friday also generated attention in the meeting because of the materials used to deliver it – students were given what can only be described as heavy duty cling film (I’m not sure what the material was called – sorry!) that acted as a whiteboard.

mcqI was also enthused by the amount of innovation in assessment that was on display, from giving students advance notice of a potential exam question (Gen Bio & Geography), the increasing use of in-class polling (Engineering) and the use of multiple choice questions as both formative and summative assessment, using both technical and non-technical solutions (Medicine, Science and Engineering).  Furthermore, I continued to be impressed by the “Authentic Assessment” that was being used throughout the university – the College of Arts and Humanities offered some excellent examples of how role play by way of running a fictitious company to aid translation, or a news studio to aid media students.

As the discussions progressed, it became apparent (in a nice way) that while there is a tremendous amount of good practice and innovation going on throughout the university, because staff are “doing it”, they don’t see it as innovative.  This was all very positive though, more of a “Wow, we do that in our college and I didn’t think of including that on our list”.

Having worked in SALT for 8 years, I have been party to several different discussions, projects and events that covered similar things and it’s not the innovation itself that impresses me, it’s that fact that there is so much of it, and that people are so humble with it, and so willing to share with others.  What I took away from yesterday’s meeting was the “so and so in my department does that too, why don’t you speak to them” – we don’t foster this type of conversation enough!!

In SALT we pride ourselves on being good teachers, but we are unique in that we come from all sorts of backgrounds and we continually look for new tools and technologies.  The best nugget of all for me from this meeting came from one of my SALT Colleagues – “This type of discussion is really good, but have you seen how they curate this in Manchester Metropolitan University” #101creativeideas

THAT is what makes me tick.  The sharing of knowledge, resources and tools as well as the sharing of the way things work.  My role, and that of the majority of the SALT team is to foster the wealth of talent that is teaching at Swansea University, and to nurture it.  In order for us to help others, we must help ourselves, and to do this we must start from within.  The subject of my reflections from yesterday’s meeting is therefore, how can SALT curate the knowledge, skills and resources within the team, how can SALT collaborate with each other and with the wider community to enhance the knowledge, skills and resources, and (most importantly for me), what part can I play in this process?

If we want teaching to be excellent at Swansea, we need to strive for excellence as a team and lead by example.


Welcome back for the 1617 Academic Year

[:en]The 1617 Academic year has just begun, and by now you will hopefully have started your teaching, or at least be in the throes of preparation.

This is by way of a quick reminder that the SALT Team are on hand to answer any questions you may have about your teaching, your Blackboard module or even for advice about tools, technologies and methods that you may want to use in your teaching.

While teaching has just started, it may be a good time to ensure that your Blackboard module is up to date, and contains the minimum requirements.  For details of what should be included in your Blackboard modules, please click here.  Please feel free to contact any of the SALT team with any queries you may have about the Blackboard minimum policy, the learning and teaching papers can be downloaded from the bottom of the above link.

Would you like to try something new in your module?  Be it a slightly different method, a piece of technology or a different way of communicating with your students.  Why not have a look at our Make One Change pages for some inspiration?  Again, the SALT Team can provide advice and guidance, and can put you in touch with other academics who have innovated in their teaching.

Did you try something new last year?  Did it work?  Are you using it again this year?  Why not tell us about your change?

And finally, have you done something that is excellent or innovative in your teaching?  Would you like to feature on our case studies pages?  We are always looking to grow our bank of case studies and continue to showcase the works of the many excellent teachers that we have here at Swansea.  If you have something that you’d like us to include then please contact one of the team

I hope the start of term goes as smoothly as possible for you.


Getting Started with Xerte – TEL Month

[:en]Xerte-Logo cropped

Today’s session on Xerte was a combined event.  Nicole Chartier, from the Academic Success Programme, and a student on the PGCert here at Swansea, gave a demonstration of a Xerte Learning Object that she had created as part of one of her assignments.

This worked really well, as Nicole was able to show a variety of interactions, and was able to link it back to how her students would use the finished object.

I was able to use the first part of the session to create accounts for each of the people attending the session, and we were able to demonstrate how Xerte works, with a hands on second hour so that all the participants were able to practice what they had seen and look at the available features within Xerte.

Information about Xerte Online Toolkits can be found here, and to get an account, please contact Helen Davies in SALT[:]

Modernising Classroom Training with Technology

[:en]Those of you who are followers of learning technology will probably have heard of Jane Hart of Top 100 tools fame.  A few of us within the SALT Team follow her blogs and tweets and given that we are looking to improve on our CPD provision, a recent workshop that she ran, “Modernising Classroom Training with Technology” was of particular interest to the team.  I participated in this four week, asynchronous, online workshop with a view to looking at how it was delivered, and whether it was an approach that we might consider as one of the options for delivery in the future.

I could tell you the title and I could tell you that it was a four week course.  Its outline is not available online anymore so I’m unable to link to it, but it was intriguing.  I couldn’t wait to get started, though having never participated in an asynchronous online course before, I wasn’t sure how it would go.

So, what did the course involve? 

yammer logo

When my registration was processed and I received my login details, I was directed to yammer, which was the platform that was being used for the duration of the course.  There was a pre-course activity, followed by 10 activities spread over four weeks.  Activities 1 and 2 were released during week 1, 3-5 in week 2 and 6-10 during week three.  That said, it was an asynchronous course so there was no requirement to be online for particular periods of time or for a specific length of time.  One thing that was mentioned in the welcome email was “the more you put in, the more you get out of it”.  This was true. I engaged as much as I could with the course (there were a couple of activities that I wasn’t able to complete), and I feel that I made a positive contribution to the course.

I have blogged about each week post-workshop on my personal blog, and have linked them below (on the week) if you want to read further.  If you have any questions about any of the tools used within the workshop, or even about the concept of asynchronous online learning then please feel free to contact me.

Week 1: 
Getting Ready
Activity 1:  Using mobile devices in icebreakers
Activity 2:  Using QR Codes

Week 2:
Activity 3:  Using mobile devices for notetaking
Activity 4:  Digitally annotating training materials
Activity 5:  Interactive training materials

Weeks 3&4: 
Activity 6:  Quizzing, polling & feedback
Activity 7:  Synchronised & on-demand presentations

(Undertaken during week 4)
Activity 8:  Backchannels
Activity 9:  Brainstorming
Activity 10:  Collaborative Writing


On the whole, I really really enjoyed the experience.  I felt that the concept of the asynchronous course was really good, as was the content.  From a CPD Perspective, I liked the fact that the activities were released each week and that there was no time limit to complete them.  Great for when work gets in the way.  That said, there appeared to be only a small group of participants, and I felt that I would have benefitted more from more people engaging.  The course will be left open for a couple of months, so there may well be more activity later on, but I’m not sure.

Yammer is not the easiest platform to navigate, even for the tech savvy.  Think of yammer as a cross between discussion boards and your Facebook newsfeed.  Any threads that get posted are in chronological order (as is the case with a discussion board or forum).  However, when someone comments on a thread then that thread goes to the top (a la Facebook).  Taking into account that it is an asynchronous course, and therefore people won’t necessarily be watching it on a daily basis, it is easy to get lost in the myriad of postings.  Thankfully, Jane was able to organise the layout with a site map stored as a note so it was easy to go to the activities if you knew which one you wanted to go to.

Would this benefit SALT?

I think this approach is well worth trialling.  I can see two areas in which it can be used, though there are probably others.  Both options relate to TEL and CPD.  Option 1 would involve designing a similar course with a view to exploring the core tools supported by the team.  The second option would be to run a course of a similar vein to the workshop I’ve attended but with themed tools and apps (for example, centred around assessment and feedback, or tools for large groups).  I guess I would need to think on this a bit more but there’s certainly scope.

As mentioned earlier in this post, please feel free to contact me if you would like any further information on any of the tools, or the workshop.[:]

Getting Dirty with Xerte

[:en]Having returned from leave to be greeted with “You have the most popular session of the month”, suffice to say I was rather nervous!

However, after 7 months of blood, sweat and tears, Xerte is finally up and running here in Swansea.  The purpose of today’s session was to explain what Xerte is, what it does and why it is useful to staff in their teaching.

In short, it has accessibility features aplenty, it has scope for collaboration, sharing and peer review and it has a vast range of multimedia options available.  Not to mention that it allows for flipping the classroom, formative assessment in the form of basic quizzes.

The session also outlined some of the training sessions that we will be running, both on the Park and Bay campuses.

I hope that the people who attended the session and who watched it via live streaming saw enough to whet their appetites, and are interested in following it up.

The following link will take you to a PDF of the presentation that I used today, complete with speaker notes.  To view the speaker notes, simply click on the “Comments” button to the right of your PDF Reader

Xerte presentation

Page Types presentation from Nottingham University[:]

Some thoughts from the SALT Conference (morning presentations)

As you will be aware, the 6th Annual SALT Conference took place on Thursday 26 June 2014. For me, personally, I love to attend because I like to hear what others do in their teaching, and I usually take away plenty of ideas. This year was no exception, and the lateness of this blog post is because I wanted time to reflect on the conference, and to gather my thoughts and ideas together.

Within the SALT Team, we tried to split ourselves out across all the streams so that each of the presenters had someone on hand if they had any requirements. If I don’t mention any of the round tables/presentations it was because I wasn’t there (apologies!)

For me, there were a lot of highlights, but one of the things that stood out in particular for me was the panel and question time. I thought that being able to write questions down during the registration was useful, and I thought that the panel had some different perspectives which lent itself to some interesting discussions and room for further discussion. More on this in another blog post.

I stayed in Faraday A for the three presentation sessions, all of which were very good, and gave plenty of food for thought going forward.

Stuart MacDonald kicked off the presentations in style, talking about Live Tweeting in Lectures. As someone who tweets often, I was interested to see how it was used in the classroom. Stuart’s presentation took the audience through how it was used, and I liked the way the use of the hashtag for each lecture was used, thus enabling students to easily find what they were looking for.

The pilot of the live tweeting had some really useful benefits, such as academics from other institutions chipping in to discussions, which added weight to what the students were learning/discussing, as well as offering alternative viewpoints.

Ideally, they would like more learners to actually participate and ‘tweet’, though they did stress that several students were reading the twitter posts without actually sending tweets and so were participating after a fashion.

I feel that there is a lot to be learned from this pilot, and there is also a lot of potential for development – particularly in using twitter as a form of revision tool – for example using third party apps such as storify, to collate tweets around a specific hashtag. One to watch I think.

View the presentation here

Mark Jones and Sally Williams were up next with their presentation “A Blended Approach to work based learning. Experiences of learners in enhanced professional practice”.

I spoke to Mark briefly at the arrival and registration and he was rather nervous, this being his first conference presentation. I wouldn’t have thought it though, and was really interested in what he had to say. Though his research and presentation was around Health Care Practitioners who may be on placement etc, I felt that the lessons learnt were easily transferable, and I can certainly see a lot of potential for the Bay Campus.

Key points for me were the emphasis on the learning being student centred – “Learning starts with the learner and is focussed around them” and the extremely positive feedback from both the learners and practictioners. As a result of the blended learning, improvements were made to practice, service delivery and patient care.

The recording of the presentation can be found here

Feeding forward, Mark and Sally are looking to collaborate with other colleges, so if you are interested in finding out more then please contact Mark or Sally, or the SALT Team.

The final presentation came from Dr Michael Draper and one of his students (and president of the Law Society), Jack Golpin. What I particularly liked about this presentation was that the student perspective was very much integrated into the presentation, and Jack’s contribution only served to emphasised how valuable the role of the academic society was to their education.

Jack mentioned that first year student members of the Law Society are assigned mentors – could this be transferable to new staff? It was also noted that some students indicate that they join for networking and mentoring reasons.

Both Michael and Jack indicated that the society receive quality external speakers, and host events open to externals, thus giving students the opportunity to complement their studies, and being able to network with current practitioners in an informal setting.

Jack stated that “the main focus of [academic societies] is to assist students in studying [their subject]”

Their presentation can be found here