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The latest news from the Centre for Distance Education.

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Can you create an online version of a Journalism module that involves high profile guests answering questions from students live?

Quick Wins: moving teaching online at Goldsmiths

At Goldsmiths we identified the need to help staff who were not familiar with online teaching to move their courses online within the space of a week at the beginning of lockdown, reports CDE Fellow Marco Gillies. An important part of the solution was a short online course called 'Quick Wins', designed by Peter Roberts and colleagues in the Teaching and Learning Innovation Centre (TaLIC). The title was meant to indicate that this was aimed at the emergency online teaching situation and that we did not have unrealistic expectations of what staff would achieve. 

The primary aim was to use the VLE to provide guidance and tips on moving online. However, the secondary aim was to do this in a way that gave participants the experience of learning online and of using the online activities that we were suggesting. For example, videos were created on the use of video in teaching, and these videos used interactive features of Panopto such as chat and in video questions. A particularly successful element was the use of forums. We modelled the use of an ice-breaker forum to encourage discussion and a social forum for participants to share their (non-teaching) experiences of lockdown. These elements encouraged a lively community, which acted as a hub for academics to share their good practice and successes in online teaching. A number of staff reported that they had tried new things as a result - with success. In addition we provided webinars and a daily 'drop-in' using BigBlueButton where staff came along with questions / suggestions etc. This both provided an effective space for support and a model of effective online, interactive video teaching.

Journalism goes online at City, University of London

‘Political Headlines’ gives City’s MA Journalism students the opportunity to meet, question and learn from top journalists and politicians. But, during Covid-19 lockdown, how do you run a module that involves high profile guests answering questions from students live? This blog post by Peter Kogan describes how City's Educational Technology Team helped to reshape the components and delivery of the module to work 100% online using asynchronous and synchronous activities in order to give students a rich learning experience. Over 100 Master’s Journalism students had the opportunity to question live Laura Kuenssberg, Gary Gibbon, Angela Rayner, Lord Falconer, Chris Mason, Professor Anand Menon, Nigel Evans MP, Michael Cockerell, Kate McCann, Paddy O’Connell, Esme Wren and more.

Managing Change - Challenging Existing Practice, 11 June, 11:00-15:00 BST

CDE Director Linda Amrane-Cooper is contributing to an online event about managing change, especially relevant during the Covid-19 pandemic where everyone has needed to adapt to online teaching delivery and support. This event has been jointly organised between ALT East England and the East Midlands Learning Technologists’ Group and will feature short presentations and workshops discussing ideas, case studies and research into learning technologies for managing change. 

Register for the event.

UUKi recommends CDE Covid support resources

UUKi is the international arm of Universities UK, representing UK universities and acting​ in their collective interests​ globally​. Their latest Transnational Education Network update provides links to several Covid support resources and activities mounted by CDE.

ICDE Webinar: International reflections on lessons learned during Covid-19 

Join us for the first webinar in the series hosted by the ICDE Quality Network. The topic of this series is "International reflections on lessons learning during the Covid-19 pandemic" looking specifically at quality assurance in assessment. Join to hear speakers Philip Uys, Dr. Souma Alhaj Ali, and CDE Fellow Alan Tait reflect on Oceania and Arab regions. Jun 11, 2020 08:00 am GMT.

Register interest here.

After Covid-19: Career planning for global graduates

As part of our development of the University of London student experience and careers support, the Career Planning Micro-Module launched on the student portal in March 2020. Available to all 50,000 University of London students studying by distance and flexible learning, it provides structured support for developing career plans for a changing working world, where digital disruption and economic shocks are prevalent. 
Enriched by content from global employers and University of London alumni, the micro-module guides students through a self-directed learning journey. They explore the likely personal careers impact of global employment trends, employers' expectations of future-facing graduate competencies and evolving conventions in professional self-presentation. The pedagogical expertise of the University of London PG Certificate LTHE informed the learning design, through which self-evaluation drives learning towards an individualised and certificated learning outcome. 

Student reception has been positive with 11,000 views in the first 8 weeks of access and 27% rate of sustained engagement. As one student from Singapore says, "I feel that this is pitched at the right level…it can guide the students through career planning with the correct thought process as they plan their careers”. That feedback highlights the power of well-designed and scaffolded self-directed learning. To find out more contact 

Student online societies combat lock-down isolation

With student input, the University of London Student Experience team have launched three online societies this year, that are helping with feelings of isolation during lock-down: Book Club, World Recipes and Film and TV societies.  We shall shortly be adding a fourth which will be a Debate Club.With almost 8000 views and over 500 active users, we are seeing lots of cross-programme community engagement – from sharing recipes, to discussing books and film.

CDE Webinars

The Centre for Distance Education is keen to provide support and development for those working in online education during these unprecedented times. As part of our portfolio of support, we shall be holding two webinars to further assist discussion, planning and development:

Thursday 28 May 2020 13.00 – 14.00  Jumping online: What have we learned?

Tuesday 23 June 2020 11.30 – 12.30  Jumping online: Sustaining quality learning

In these webinars we shall be providing some short inputs from Centre for Distance Education practitioners on a range of topics including supporting peer engagement, online assessment, online pedagogy, curriculum design and quality, but the emphasis will be on sharing issues, approaches and solutions arising from the impact of the pandemic.

See CDE Events for more details and how to register.


Update on CDE Covid related activity 

While colleagues across the University federation and further afield have been striving to shift courses online and modify examination plans in response to Covid-19 and the lock-down, CDE has been working to provide support and guidance.

  • A CDE Covid help page was set up to offer links to selected resources to help colleagues new to distance learning move their teaching and assessment online. 
  • RIDE 2020 recordings and resources are now all live on the website. 
  • A number of our resources are now available on the UoL YouTube channel to support teaching online, here is an example.
  • University of London is now part of the Commonwealth of Learning/UNESCO Open Door project. We are working on getting further resources and links built with COL.
  • QAA Scotland is incorporating our CDE covid page into their teaching online resources.
  • CDE content has also been incorporated into the International Council for Open and Distance Education Knowledge Hub and posted via the ICDE media channels. 
  • Our Reflective Tool for emergency responses to teaching online will be launched next week.
  • Linda Amrane-Cooper, the Director of CDE presented at the SAS Forum last week on supporting research in an online context and has been asked to run an input on flipped classroom approaches.
  • CDE Fellow Alan Tait contributed  to a webinar for the International Education department at UCL.
  • CDE will be hosting a panel discussion in early 2020/2021 on the Question of the Impact of Covid on perceptions around online/distance education (has it killed it or brought it to life?)
  • A series of practical webinars/workshops will run from October to December.
  • We are running two Covid-19 related Webinars in May and June.
  • We are working on a short publication concerning the response to covid across the globe – drawing on input from the 100+ students on the PGC LTHE.

Visiting scholars scheme

Our scheme may be particularly useful for those looking to develop their skills and expertise in online education in response to longer term moves to digital education triggered by the Coronavirus.

The CDE Visiting Scholars scheme is open to enquiries from interested individuals who wish to engage in projects and activities concerned with high quality teaching and research in open and distance learning locally, nationally and internationally. Placements at CDE usually last for between four and six months. The nature of the placement can vary from specific research projects, to skills development. A bespoke programme of activities is developed to support the intended outcomes for the placement. Read more about the scheme (PDF). 

Roger Mills Awards celebrated

This year’s winners of the Roger Mills Award for Innovation in Learning and Teaching were presented with their awards by Vice Chancellor Wendy Thomson at a ceremony during the RIDE 2020 conference. This year there were two joint winning teams: The University of London Careers Group, led by Laura Brammar and the University of London Centre for Distance Education, led by Gwyneth Hughes. See the CDE Roger Mills Award Web pages for details of the winning projects.

UoL resources to help ICDE fight back against Coronavirus

The University of London Bloomsbury Learning Environment online course ‘Get Interactive: Practical Teaching with Technology’, has been advertised on social media by the International Council for Distance Education (ICDE) to help educators all over the world to shift to online and distance learning provision as schools and universities are forced to shut down campuses.

ICDE, which, as the leading global membership organization for open, online and distance education is making available relevant resources for distance and online teaching amid the pandemic, has also listed the Open and Distance Learning Planning workbook, developed by CDE on its “Tips for Distance and Online Teaching” website page.

Get Interactive: Practice Teaching with Technology is a free, three-week exploration of some of the popular technologies that educators use to make their learning engaging, interactive and dynamic. It is aimed at educators who have little experience using online tools and technology for teaching purposes but who have basic familiarity with the Internet, online learning environments and computers in general. The course is most relevant for teachers, lecturers and instructors of adults and older children (i.e., secondary school, college, further education, higher education, continuing education).

The Open and Distance Learning Planning workbook was developed for a workshop to support capacity building for Open and Distance Learning in Nigeria. The main aim of this workshop was to provide information, ideas, resources and support for participants to plan the next stages of development of Open and Distance Learning (ODL) in their institution, whatever their role. The workbook documents 15 sessions, with activities and resources. It is freely available and adaptable under a Creative Commons license BY-NC-SA. 

"I was so happy to have gone to RIDE 2020"

Anna Greathead, a student on the Open University MA in Open and Distance Education, reflects on her experience of attending this year's RIDE conference in four detailed blog posts:

See also other blogs about RIDE 2020 on the CDE Director's blog.

Disruption is not your friend

This year’s Research in Distance Education (RIDE) conference took ‘Examining Disruptive Innovations in Distance Education’ as its theme, which some might view as ironic since attendance by some presenters and participants was disrupted by a surge in Coronavirus in the same week as the conference. Keynote speaker Professor Martin Weller, The Open University, considerately gave his address via a remote link rather than risk sharing his cough with the rest of the conference attendees. Observing that "disruption is not your friend" (and we certainly knew it last week) Martin adopted the position that disruption is a poor model for education and that Open Education is a much better alternative. You can read Martin’s argument on his blog and he has posted a video recording of it on YouTube.

Strategic approaches to developing Institutional capability for high quality ODL

Over 40 Vice Chancellors, Directors , Deans and other senior managers attended the latest in a series of ODL capacity-building workshops jointly organised by the Nigerian National Universities Commission and the University of London Centre for Distance Education. 

Students as Partners in Mentorship Scheme

Alumni have been transcribing and analysing data evaluating a new, award-winning mentorship scheme for a co-authored journal manuscript. The 2017/18 CDE-funded scheme involves alumni supporting distance learning (DL) students undertaking a research project on the MSc in Public Health at LSHTM. The scheme received early recognition when the Project Module Organisers received an LSHTM Director’s Award in 2018. Since then, staff, students and alumni have worked closely together as partners on the associated CDE-funded research project to evaluate the scheme.

Anna Foss, the Principal Investigator, said “It feels so exciting for me to work with alumni on educational research in this way - they’ve given so much!” while a mentor said “Doing this exercise was really gratifying.” 

Read the interim summary report for more details of the findings and the full list of student partners and other investigators involved

Teaching and Research Awards 2020 announced

CDE is pleased to announce the winners of the 2019/20 Teaching and Research Awards.

CDE Fellow is ICDE ambassador

Alan Tait, CDE Fellow and former ICDE Executive Committee Member has been selected as one of 35 ambassadors representing 25 countries to undertake activities to ensure that the 29th ICDE World Conference is truly representative of the global ICDE community. The group of voluntary 2021 ICDE World Conference Ambassadors are well-renowned internationally and regionally as leading advocates for bringing accessible, equitable education to all through online, open and distance education.

Virtual Open Day for PG Cert LTHE

Join us at the PG Cert Learning and Teaching in Higher Education Virtual Open Day session on Wednesday 26 February 2020 at 15:30. We shall be talking about the programme structure, how you can study and more: #UniversityofLondonVirtualOpenDay2020

RIDE2020 conference booking now open

On 13 March 2020 the Centre for Distance Education hosts its 14th annual Research in Distance Education (and eLearning) Conference in London’s iconic Senate House, with a theme of Examining disruptive innovations in distance education. For more details see the conference programme. Make sure you reserve your place by booking online.

East African teacher educators learning at a distance

A new report by Dr Jennie Golding, Associate Professor Mathematics Education at UCL IoE, documents a recent CDE Teaching and Research Award-funded  project that adapted a model for mixed mode teacher development courses for South Africans from deprived areas,for use with mathematics teacher educators in East Africa. The report highlights issues of context-specific content and framing, including effective ‘low tech’ delivery and approaches to overcoming the digital divide.

Prestigious Vice Chancellor’s Award success

Aiman Abousher, British University Vietnam Senior Lecturer in Finance and Programme Leader in Marketing and Management has won the 2019 Vice Chancellor's Teaching Excellence Award at BUV.

Talking about his experience on the University of London PG Certificate Learning and Teaching in Higher Education, an elated Abousher said “I credit this award to the PGCHE – UOL team for their dedication, hard work, support towards my studies, my education, my knowledge, my skills gained, as I applied all the knowledge and skills I read online and learnt from discussion forums to enhance my students learning. My student’s satisfaction towards their learning has recognized me in achieving this prestigious award. Thank you to your and your excellent PGCHE team for all their support towards my studies in this program.”

Developing information capabilities for distance learning students

What capabilities in identifying, accessing, using and referencing information do graduates need? What particular problems and opportunities affect the development of information capabilities through distance learning courses? In particular, how can we reconcile the need to give students ready access to necessary information with the need to help them develop their necessary information capabilities? And how can these problems be solved, these opportunities achieved? A new report from CDE addresses these topics, and offers both analysis and ways forward.

Educator role is 'wicked'

Maren Deepwell, CEO of the Association for Learning Technology, reflecting on her keynote at the CDE RIDE conference earlier this year via her blog, picks up on a section of the 2018 Horizon Report, which describes rethinking the role of educators not as a solvable or even a difficult challenge, but a wicked one, in the sense that it is ‘complex enough to define, but even more so to address’.

Student Researchers across the Globe – is this unique?

Today saw the launch of our CDE Student Research Fellows project. Student involvement in research projects is common at most universities, but our Student Research Fellows are living across the world and this is will be one of the first distance education student researcher projects. Six students joined the CDE  team at University of London for the virtual launch and induction meeting. Drawn from Zimbabwe, Malaysia, Trinidad, USA and Germany, our Student Fellows will work on research, development and evaluation projects ranging from exploring student learning activity in online environments, to supporting staff development for the Digital Educator and combating contract cheating.

Prison no barrier for Distance Education degrees 

Over the last 10 years the University of London has cooperated with African Prison Projects to provide a legal education for prisoners, prison officers and APP staff via distance learning. 
This year there were seventeen graduates which included three prisoners who had been released. CDE Fellow Patricia McKellar, Associate Dean, Undergraduate Laws was in Nairobi, Kenya this October to award degrees to the students who all have challenging stories of their incarceration and their path to studying for the law degree. Read more about this story on Patricia's blog post.

Joint symposium in Abuja

On 25 and 26 November the Centre for Distance Education Executive Lead on Research and Dissemination, Professor Alan Tait, joins Mike Winter and Peter O’Hara (Global Engagement) in Nigeria. Co-hosting the Annual Symposium on High Quality Distance Education with the Nigerian National University Commission (NUC), UoL and CDE colleagues will provide keynote input to the symposium and hold strategic planning meetings with the NUC Executive Secretary on preparations for the London workshop and RIDE Conference in March 2020, exploration of joint research, and the development of teaching centre and parallel degree provision in Nigeria.

Questioning distance learning technologies

In a recent blogpost  Anglia Ruskin University academic Dr Beatriz Acevedo reflects on her experience of the CDE 'Supporting Student Success' workshop 9/10/2019. "[The workshop] was an excellent way to reframe my own approach to learn about distance learning and hear from experienced academics and young innovators. Connecting with my own passion for Design Thinking, I will try to spend more time in the “What is” and the “Why”, before engaging in expensive technologies that do not really challenge the status quo of education." You can read more blog posts about the workshop on the CDE Director's blog.

Meeting the world

Exciting opening welcome from Mary Mitchell O’Connor, TD Minister of State for Higher Education, Ireland at the World Conference on Online Learning. Centre for Distance Education Fellows and Head are attending and presenting our research. The conference themes of empowerment and transformation are close to the heart of the University of London.

MOOCs: The consequences for learning and teaching in credit bearing programmes

A new paper by CDE Fellows Alan Tait and Stylianos Hatzipanagos throws light on the nature of innovation in institutions of Higher Education, and supports the institutional strategy of investment in MOOCs in order to reform the broader practice of learning and teaching on and off campus. The paper was presented in September 2019 at the the Ninth Pan-Commonwealth Forum (PCF9) on Open Learning

OU China visit to CDE begins

This week sees the start of the visit by Fengwei Cai and Luo Xiaobo, visiting scholars from Open University China to the Centre for Distance Education. Since 1999 the Sino-British Fellowship Trust (SBFT) based in London has had an Agreement with the China Scholarship Council (CSC) to co-sponsor a group of just 5 academics to visit the UK for three to four months each year, with the aim of providing high-quality research opportunities on open and distance education to professionals (lecturers, full-time researchers and management staff) from the Open University of China and its branches across China. 
Fengwei and Luo are here to research Open and Distance Learning  practice at UoL and share experiences of running large scale open and distance education programmes in China and around the world. Fengwei said “We chose UoL because it is one of the largest, most diverse universities in the UK with over 120,000 students in London, and a further 50,000 studying across 190 countries for a University of London degree, and it is the first one to undertake distance education in the world.” Dr Linda Amrane-Cooper, Head of the Centre for Distance Education, noted ‘We are delighted to have the opportunity to collaborate on projects that explore issues of student engagement and learning through social media with colleagues from China and we look forward to establishing longer term collaborations."

Discussion forum participation does not predict learner success

Research by CDE Fellow Gwyneth Hughes and Lesley Price, UCL Institute of Education, challenges the common assumption that discussion forum activity levels can be used to predict student learning and subsequent success or failure. They conclude that level of participation in discussion forums does not predict success or failure, whereas students’ giving and receiving of feedback provides a good predictor of success. Programme design should reflect this they argue. The paper “Systematic peer reviewing versus a discussion forum for promoting online learner success: an evaluation of innovative learning design for postgraduate students” will be presented at the ICDE World Conference on Online Learning in November 2020.

University of London at Pan-Commonwealth Forum on Open and Distance Learning

The University of London (UoL) has been fully engaged with PCF09 – the Commonwealth of Learning’s conference gathering in Edinburgh, 9-12 September 2019, of more than 500 policymakers, practitioners and researchers in open and distance learning from across the Commonwealth’s 53 countries.

The University’s Centre for Distance Education (CDE)’s Fellows Professor Alan Tait and Dr Daksha Patel have co-presented papers, and UoL’s stand has been busy with lively conversations around ways in which the CDE can engage with academics and professionals in building open and distance learning capacity; and the role of postgraduate degrees in building skills.

Supporting Student Success

The Centre for Distance Education, University of London, hosts our annual Supporting Student Success workshop on Wednesday 9 October 2019, 9 AM to 2 PM.

The workshop offers professional development for colleagues in the field of distance and online learning. With a focus on supporting practice and understanding in the field, the interactive sessions will draw on Centre for Distance Education projects and work in progress. Themes to be explored include:

  • Innovations in programme design
  • Teacher educator development
  • Preparing digital educators for the future
  • Improving student progression in distance learning
  • Pedagogical effectiveness of simulations and games
  • Using chatbots to support assessment outcomes

See the full programme for details of sessions and speakers.

Outstanding CDE author

Congratulations to CDE Fellow Alan Tait whose paper 'Open Universities: the next phase' published in Asian Association of Open Universities Journal has been selected by the editorial team as an Outstanding Paper in the 2019 Emerald Literati Awards. The paper was judged one of the most exceptional pieces of work the team has seen throughout 2018.

Open Education award for Eye Health Team

The Open Education Team led by CDE Fellow Daksha Patel has been awarded a national Collaborative Award for Teaching Excellence (CATE) by HE Advance. The judges praised the Open Education in Eye Health as “a model of open education practice”.

Distance Learning Success

Sarah Tarar is one of three academic leaders who recently graduated with our Postgraduate Certificate in Learning and Teaching in Higher Education, studied completely online. Sarah reflects on her experience of distance learning as a guest blogger on the Director's Blog, you can read about how online study changed the way these successful graduates think about teaching - Reflections on the PG Cert Learning and Teaching.

Open University China Collaboration

The Centre for Distance Education will host two visiting Scholars from the Open University China in September 2019 and, following a recent visit by a senior delegation from OU China, explore opportunities for further collaboration between the World’s Oldest Distance Education provider and the largest Open University in the world.

CDE in QAA Nigeria Report

A recent QAA report on the higher education landscape in Nigeria favourably mentions how the Nigeria Universities Commission is drawing on extensive Open and Distance Learning experience of the University of London, through collaboration with the Centre for Distance Education through a Capacity building workshop on open and distance learning.

Global training takes off

Teaching staff from across the globe are benefiting from the innovative online professional development degree offered by the Centre for Distance Education at the University of London. The Postgraduate Certificate in Learning and Teaching in Higher Education brings together teaching staff from a very wide range of subjects to develop their skills in classroom and online teaching.

The Postgraduate Certificate in Learning and Teaching in Higher Education has been specifically designed for those teaching, tutoring and supporting the learning of students in higher education.

The programme has an impact on teacher's practice. Kholah Yaruq Malik (Director International Qualifications and Quality Assurance, The Millennium University College, Pakistan) who completed the programme in March 2019 said, 

I chose to study the PGCert Higher Education programme because I felt the need to learn, unlearn and relearn. Being in higher education, I feel it's imperative to go back to the classroom for a new perspective on teaching and learning. As a teacher I have incorporated many things from the course into my teachings, from small things like peer review, to using wiki and the importance of students' existing knowledge (schemata) and so much more.

What research says about how and why learning happens

CDE Fellow David Baume has co-written, with Open University Regius Professor Eileen Scanlon, two chapters for a new book on learning. It was edited by UCL Professor of Learner Centred Design Rosemary Luckin.

The book Enhanced learning and teaching with technology is available on the UCL IOE Press website.

Supporting e-learning developments for The Careers Group CDE

Fellows Professor Stephen Brown, Dr Endrit Kromidha and Julie Voce are working with The Careers Group, University of London, to identify how the Careers Group can proactively develop their e-learning practice across all colleges and the challenges that need to be overcome to do so.

If you would like help or advice about e-learning development and distance learning contact

Digital heaven or Uberisation of academia?

A new report by a CDE-organised think-tank analyses current trends and presents four contrasting visions of possible futures for digital education in 2028. The authors argue that, in order to be ready for the challenges of the next decade, institutions and governments need to invest now in change management; building relationships with other players in the education ecosystem; and provide digital skills training for all teachers.

Have your say by responding to the Digital Educator Project Report Poll.