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.


[:en]Reflections of ALTc[:]


This September Debbie Baff, Simon Gibbon and I (Mandy Jack) attended this year’s annual ALT (Association for Learning Technology) conference which is the UK’s main learning technology conference. See our reflections on the SALT Blog.  This year the conference was held at the University of Warwick Campus and the theme was called: Connect, Collaborate, Create – the full programme can be found on ALTc website.

The opening keynote was from Josie Fraser, UK-based Social and Educational Technologist, with a talk called “In the Valley of the Trolls”. Josie looked at specific contexts of open practice – social and political, and “digital environmental factors that shape, restrict and enable collaboration and collection”.

In her talk, she highlights key issues relating to online anonymity, trolling, and self-regulation that educational organisations, providers, and individuals need to be aware of and engaged with, in the context of supporting all educators and learners to work, share and learn openly online. She also referred to open educational practice, and how uncomfortable it is to share with people who don’t agree with you.

Here are Jodie’s notes from the keynote http://www.josiefraser.com/2016/09/alt-c-2016-keynote-in-the-valley-of-the-trolls/

Here are Mandy Jack’s favourite sessions

 ‘Welcome to the M-Assessment Quiz show’ with Lisa Donaldson from Dublin City University. Assessment is THE most impactful thing we can do for student learning (Black & Wiliam 98). It felt like a good call. This innovative workshop demonstrated how to easily make formative assessment an integral part of the learning process by creating technology rich experiences to engage learners. The session was hands on, the audience participated in a selection of online quiz and polling activities, which were interesting and versatile.  After a quick play, we evaluated eight assessment tools for the classroom. Of which my favourite was Zeetings.com.

We used Zeetings to vote on our preferred tool, participated in 3 quizzes with Kahoot, Mentimeter, and Quizizz and also reviewed a Zaption video quiz and vote via Plickers on a question set. Final three tools were posted to a Padlet Wall with supporting documentation. We then voted via Answergarden to crown a winner! Wow, a fabulous range of tools used in a fun way to allow us to try them out. Obviously, you wouldn’t use them all at once with students, but they are all worth a look. We used a selection TEd some in the IT month so check out the blog between September 8th to October 7th.

The next session that I particularly liked was ‘A Collaborative approach to assessment’ presented by  Sarah Sherman, and Leo Havemann from University of London www.bloomsbury.ac.uk/assessment

Sherman and Havemann began with a quote from Ferrell 2012 “Assessment and feedback lie at the heart of the learning experience, and forms a significant part of both academic and administrative workload. It remains, however, the single biggest source of student dissatisfaction with the higher education experience”.

Sherman and Havemann presented the argument that online assessment and feedback methods and processes are increasingly essential to the student experience and must be regarded as a priority for education institutions. In their session they considered the experiences of the members of the Bloomsbury Learning Environment (BLE) consortium (a group of geographically-close HE institutions based in London) in which there has been an increasing interest – and concern – in this area. The presentation describes how they assessed and evaluated appropriate technologies to support e-assessment across the consortium, producing documentation and case studies.

The pair shared their lessons learned and highlighted areas of good, innovative and interesting practice. They used the Jisc Transforming Assessment and feedback with technology guidance https://www.jisc.ac.uk/guides/transforming-assessment-and-feedback, which provides ideas and resources to help colleges and universities enhance the entire assessment and feedback lifecycle.

The next remarkable speaker came from the final Keynote of the first day, a lady called  Lia Commissar – Education and Neuroscience: Issues and Opportunities.  A match for our very own Phil Newton she talked about Neuromyths, where do they come from, are they a problem and what can we do about them. Listen for yourself.

Emma Purnell, Rebecca Vickerstaff, and Liz Mcgregor from Plymouth Uni presented an interesting paper called Evaluating Evaluation! This was described as a four tiered approach encapsulating evaluation techniques and methods in staff training and delivery, peer review, participant experience and formal feedback in Higher Education. They developed their research based on training and development needs of academic and non-academic staff in Higher Education, which are critical in ensuring continued digital literacy standards. Enhancing staff skills and awareness’s of digital technology is vital in creating engaging and innovative teaching materials for students (Courtney, 2013).
I was particularly interested as they asked how do we continue to ensure that the method in which we evaluate is appropriate and meeting learning outcomes in an increasing evolving educational field? Evaluation of training is a critical process in measuring the impact of learning and training provision in Higher Education and many institutions demonstrate and disseminate various ways of evaluation. So to help answer their question the team developed a 4 tiered approach to help bring consistency to their training programmes.


Courtney, K. (2013) ‘Adapting Higher Education through Changes in Academic Work’. Higher Education Quarterly, 67 (1). pp 40-55.

I went to the Jisc workshop entitled ‘What is Digital Capability’ I didn’t think that they particularly answered the question, and they didn’t particularly ask for our ideas either. Here is the diagram from their website which is rather helpful, and there are a range of tools and projects that can help with the understanding of this complex concept.


The activity they asjiscactivityked us to engage in however, was interesting. They asked us to plot the technology we used personally in each area of our lives. Here is my diagram, make of it what you will.

In another talk, later on in the day Kerry Pinny and Marcus Elliot suggested that, Creativity takes courage (and digital capabilities) . They used the Jisc framework to design their CPD workshop. They research began by asking ‘How do you convince the important people of the way forward, of what you want to do and how you intend doing it?’ They explained that it is crucial to get the stakeholders together; take of wellbeing was a keyword. So they began by sending an email asking How Digital Are You? along with a questionnaire. The other key development was departmental opportunities, where their Law department gave their staff a Digital week to explore their digital capabilities.

Another interehuddersfieldcoursetitlessting presentation from Huddersfield Uni Flipping heck! Be careful what you wish for [1296]: Andrew Raistrick, and Steven Bentley. Their Academic developers ran a range of workshops like our September It month called Pick and Mix workshops. However, they used the flipped classroom approach. They used eStream to create a range of video resources that they expected staff to watch prior to attending the course. They reported that trainer fatigue was avoided by using the videos. The answer was not to replace the hands on with the video, but to have them as a supplementary resource.  Here are some of the courses Huddersfield have on offer; if there is anything here that you find interesting please contact SALT.


See Deb’s personal reflections below:

#altc September 2016 – My Highlights


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[:]

[:en]September IT Month 2016 – Enhancing Teaching, Learning and Assessment[:]

[:en]SeptemberITFrom September 8th through to October 7th there’s a comprehensive and exciting array of lunch-time seminars available to help staff at Swansea Make One Change, and have a go at using some technology to enhance your approach to learning, teaching or assessment and supporting student engagement. Have a look at what’s on offer!

The sessions include using Twitter and other tools to enhance student engagement, tools for groupwork, recording lectures, creating TedEd talks, blended learning as well as perhaps more familiar technology – Blackboard, the University’s virtual learning environment. But this isn’t just about covering the minimum requirements in Blackboard – its about using enhanced tools and techniques to engage and enthuse learners. Sessions will be covering what more you can do with Blackboard and some of its features, such as Campus Pack. There will also be Blackboard Drop-in sessions to help you with difficulties during the year.

Some will be delivered by SALT Team members, but others by your peers who’ve had experience of using these technologies in their courses. Come see them use it, listen to them talk through their challenges, discuss what has worked, and in most sessions try out the technology for yourself. Ask them questions!

Have you been reflecting on how you can enhance your teaching and/or support student learning? If you are already a Fellow of the HEA, how can you demonstrate that you are remaining in good standing? Are there any targets in your PDR regarding improving your teaching?

The sessions are being held in our refurbished Training Room on the Top floor of the Taliesin Building.

Finding us can be a challenge, but if you go the main library on the Singleton Campus, turn around to face north, and follow the gap between the Egypt Centre and the Keir Hardie Building you’ll find us! For a visual description, see our website contact details.

You do have to register for these sessions and spaces are limited to the first 20 registrants. So, what are you waiting for? Sign up![:]

[:en]Group-work or working in a group?[:]

[:en]Here is Mandy Jack abseiling off the top of Kilvey Hall of residence, behind Fulton House. She was part of the ISS team Book drop fundraising for SOS Africa.

Video and images by Deb Baff

Not exactly the type of group work we would normally be writing about here in SALT.  However, it is a good example of being part of a group or team, contributing an individual piece of work for a project, a concept which is often confused or interchanged in teaching with group-work.  Work like this is purely an amalgamation of  individual pieces of work collected and presented as one, rather than a collaboration where individuals share ideas, skills and methods to accomplish a task or project.  The latter is much more difficult to manage, but has so much to offer especially in higher education. Kezar (2004) discusses how the external pressures and the known benefits of collaboration, drove many higher education institutions to develop more collaborative learning opportunities. She talks of higher education institutes trying to create learning communities, service and community-based learning, and interdisciplinary research and teaching and that 50% of them failed. The article was written twelve years ago, so how far have we come? Furthermore, can technology help to drive the initiative further and with more success?

After reading an interesting article on Mediashift a few months ago I was interested to find out what sort of innovative collaboration was happening here at Swansea using digital technology.  If you have any stories, successes or otherwise we would love to know. Please email  salt@swansea.ac.uk.

I also want to investigate the possibilities that interactive touchscreens and presentation technology might have in various settings. You might have attended  one of the demonstrations last month where the SALT Team had a range of Interactive Touch Screens (ITS) available to explore. If so, please let us know what you think? Again contact us: salt@swansea.ac.uk.

We are hosting a session on Wednesday afternoon (June 22nd 2016) as part of the Learning Innovations Group (LIG)  project asking “Can technology enhance collaborative learning?”   It will be an opportunity to see the new SALT learning and teaching space and to test some collaborative, interactive tech over a spot of lunch. You will be asked to collaborate with colleagues and to share ideas about how you could embed such technology into your practice.  If you would like to attend please contact Mandy Jack at m.j.jack@swansea.ac.uk for details.[:]

Learning Technology and Innovation

I recently attended a conference run by National Training Resources Limited on the subject of Learning Technology and Innovation.  One of the primary reasons for attending was to try and glean ideas for developing some purely online courses as part of the Work Based Learning Project in Engineering, but also with an additional SALT hat on.

The conference brought together an eclectic mix of people from education, Government and industry, from apprentices to managers and from all four corners of the UK.  That in itself illustrates that innovation is open to all!

I picked out some interesting points and ideas that I feel I can take forward with the Engineering project, but I was struck by how much of this “innovation” we already do here at Swansea University.  Some of the tools and methods were held up as excellent practice in their sector.  Things we do here in Swansea but we don’t think of them as innovative because they are almost commonplace.

A particular favourite presentation of mine from the day’s speakers was that delivered by Mark Griffiths from NESTA.  NESTA is an charity whose main aim is innovation.  They have since launched a project entitled ‘Make Things, Do Stuff’ aimed at getting children and young people people to become digital makers. On the site, you’ll find advice, support and tools to help code a website, create a game or even build a 3D robot.  This may not necessarily be relevant to Higher Education but personally I found the methods used to teach them really good, and with backing from Nominet, Mozilla and the Chancellor, it’s high on the Government’s priority list at the moment.  The video below shows some of the comments from young people as well as the sponsors at the Make Things, Do Stuff launch:

[iframe src=”http://player.vimeo.com/video/67463449″ width=”500″ height=”281″]

Dr Andrew Manches led one of the morning keynotes in talking about a report (commissioned by NESTA!) which was the culmination of extensive research into how technology has been used in the UK education systems, as well as lessons from around the world.  This report provides a whistle stop tour of different types of innovative use of technology and provides links to several innovations.

Decoding Learning

Social Media also played a key part throughout the conference, with references dotted in almost every presentation, participants encouraged to Tweet with the conference hashtag #learntechconf as well as being the focus on yet another keynote, this time from Nitin Thakrar, Director of elearning Studios.

The video below shows the impact of Social Media on the world:

[iframe src=”http://www.youtube.com/embed/x0EnhXn5boM” width=”100%” height=”480″]

Research in Learning Technology now open access

Research in Learning Technology is the journal of the Association for Learning Technology and is now open access so that access, including back issues, is now available free of charge. The journal aims to raise the profile of research in learning technology, encouraging research that informs good practice and contributes to the development of policy. The journal publishes papers concerning the use of technology in learning and teaching in all sectors of education, as well as in industry


Trumpet Blowing

At the risk of being accused of a self-publicising narcissist, may I nonetheless mention two e-Learning related posts from my Blog Fresh and Crispy.

Your comments are always welcomed there or here.

Effective Assessment in a Digital Age Workshops

Effective Assessment in a Digital Age Workshops
From challenge to change…

Using principles of good practice, work with colleagues towards an effective model for the use of technology in assessment and feedback.

A series of free workshops based around the JISC Effective Assessment in a Digital Age publication www.jisc.ac.uk/digiassess and associated online resources www.jisc.ac.uk/assessresource will take place during January – March 2011. Workshops will be held in London (20 January 2011), Birmingham (16th February 2011), Bristol (March 2011, date to be confirmed) and Newcastle (24 March 2011). The JISC e-Learning Programme will be working in partnership with the JISC Regional Support Centres on these events.

These workshops will be exploring how the use of technology in HE and HE in FE, linked to principles of good practice in assessment and feedback, can help promote more effective learning. These workshops, which draw on the work of recent JISC-funded projects as well as related significant developments in the area of assessment, will have a practical, hands-on flavour with a focus on how to move from current challenges towards sustainable change.

The workshops will be suitable for:
• Lecturers, tutors and course leaders who design assessment and feedback for their learners on HE-level courses
• Intermediaries with a role in supporting practitioners with assessment, and technology-enhanced assessment (learning technologists, e-learning/ILT champions, staff developers, educational developers, academic registry)

Further information together with the registration form for the London workshop is now available from www.jisc.ac.uk/assessworkshops