CDE Resources

The Centre for Distance Education (CDE) is a University of London initiative to support the development of expertise in the field of distance/online/digital/e-learning/technology supported learning. See our available resources below.

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Available resources

CDE Covid: support for teaching online

This CDE page provides information and support for teaching online during the Covid-19 crisis.

RIDE 2020 conference presentations

The 2020 Research in Innovation in Distance Education and eLearning (RIDE) conference explored the theme of disruption in Higher Education just before the UK entered Coronavirus lock-down. View presentations from the conference.

The Careers Group e-Learning Developments

This research project led by Professor Stephen Brown with Dr Endrit Kromidha and sponsored by the University of London Careers group aimed:

  • To ascertain the potential for e-learning to enhance careers services provided by The Careers Group (TCG). 
  • To develop a plan to enable The Careers Group to develop effective e-learning for students.
  • To explore the possibility of sharing student e-learning resources among members of the TCG.

Principal findings:

  • More careers and employability guidance needs to be available on demand at any time and accessible by students, careers staff and faculty academics online and via mobile platforms
  • e-learning is the only viable option
  • e-learning activities need to go beyond information delivery to include practical skills development
  • activities need measurable learning outcomes and built-in assessments that enable learners to measure their own learning gains
  • most TCG staff lack sufficient technical and pedagogical skill to develop and deliver e-learning.

Download: The Careers Group e-Learning Developments report.

What the research says about how and why learning happens

This book chapter by Dr David Baume, CDE Fellow, and Eileen Scanlon, Open University Regius Professor, is based on earlier work by David with CDE Fellows Professor Alan Tait and the late Dr Roger Mills.

It identifies seven conditions for effective learning:

  1. A clear structure, framework, scaffolding surrounds, supports and informs learning;
  2. High standards are expected of learners, and are made explicit;
  3. Learners acknowledge and use their prior learning and their particular approaches to learning;
  4. Learning is an active process;
  5. Learners spend lots of time on task, that is, doing relevant things and practising;
  6. Learning is undertaken at least in part as a collaborative activity, both among students and between students and staff; and
  7. Learners receive and use feedback on their work.

Baume, D. and Scanlon, E. (2018). What the research says about how and why learning happens. In: R. Luckin, ed., Enhancing Learning and Teaching with Technology - What the Research Says, 1st ed. London: UCL IoE Press, pp.2-13.

Making ODL happen: Open and Distance Learning Planning

A workbook (warning: large file, 2094 KB) prepared for the National Universities Commission for Nigeria by Dr David Baume and Professor Stephen Brown. The workbook was designed to underpin a three-day practical workshop delivered in Abuja, Nigeria, 3-5 July 2018. The workbook is freely available to download under a Creative Commons BY NC SA licence.

Get Interactive: Practical Teaching with Technology

This Massive Open Online Course (MOOC), Get Interactive: Practice Teaching with Technology, is a 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 course is taught by: 

Dr Eileen Kennedy, Researcher in online learning, UCL Institute of Education

Dr Nancy Weit, Digital learning specialist, Architela

Sarah Sherman, Manager, Bloomsbury Learning Environment (BLE) (CDE Fellow)

It is free to take this MOOC, however there is fee of £39, payable on the course site if you would like to receive a course completion certificate.

A contemporary digital capabilities framework

This book chapter by Dr David Baume, CDE Visiting Fellow, and Eileen Scanlon, Open University Regius Professor, builds on an earlier chapter, What the research says about how and why learning happens. It relates the seven conditions for effective learning to the Jisc Digital Capabilities Framework and thereby offers  a concise account of good learning for the digital world.

Baume, D. and Scanlon, E. (2018). A contemporary digital capabilities framework. In: R. Luckin, ed., Enhancing Learning and Teaching with Technology, 1st ed. London: UCL IoE Press, pp.150-153.


Assessment, Feedback and Technology: Contexts and Case Studies in Bloomsbury

This open access e-book, was co-edited by Sarah Sherman, CDE Fellow and Service Manager of the Bloomsbury Learning Environment (BLE) and Leo Havemann, UCL, as the culmination of a two-year focus on assessment and feedback. The e-book contains three research papers, which capture macro-level snapshots of current practice across the BLE partner institutions, as well as a wide range of pedagogic and technical case studies. The book chapters, which were contributed by academics, learning technologists, administrators and consultants, bring a variety of perspectives to the topic. The collection therefore offers an overview of current assessment practices, and some inspiration and ideas for making better use of technology.

Download the free e-book.

Online learning tools and student retention project final report

The study presented in this report explores how online tools in a context of ipsative assessment influence performance and retention, and thus enable progression to the second module of the UoL PG Cert Learning and Teaching in Higher Education programme. 

Principal findings include:

  1. Engagement with the discussion forum on learning content is not a very good predictor of completion and success except that unsurprisingly no engagement at all predicts non-completion. 
  2. Engagement in peer review, and especially giving feedback to peers, is a good predictor of success. Students who engaged moderately or well in the peer review were successful despite low discussion forum posting.
  3. Different learners might use different tools for success either posting in the discussion forum or engagement in peer review. One student with weak engagement in peer review did perform exceptionally well. This student did use the discussion forum to a great extent for posting ideas and learning which may have resulted in the successful outcome. Thus, spending time on task in either the forum or the peer review was linked to high or moderate performance. Other learners seemed to prefer to engage with both activities and these students were also successful. 

Download the full report.

The Digital Educator project final report

The Digital Educator project set out to identify significant developments in Educational Technology which can influence the HE Distance Learning Sector in the next two to five years.

Principal findings:

Mobile Technologies and Social Media are often quite well established, but AI and VR are more emerging, with learning analytics being somewhat in between.

Humanities disciplines have much less uptake of a whole range of technologies, while professional education and, perhaps unsurprisingly Mathematics/Technology have made more use. Biomedical education has slightly lower uptake than the latter two domains, but there was considerable enthusiasm for a number of more avant-garde technologies, such as Augmented Reality and AI.

Disciplinary differences reflect different barriers to acceptance. For example, it was felt that humanities academics were less familiar with many of the technologies than other disciplines because they are less likely to use them in research. However, mathematics and technology academics, while very comfortable with technology, are often less familiar with the pedagogical ideas that would help them put these technologies into practice in education.

Technology itself was not generally a barrier, but there were a number of individual and organisational barriers. These include individual lack of familiarity with technology and also organisational factors such as incentive structures that do not reward pedagogical innovation.

Where technological barriers do exist, these tend to be in situations where there have not been sufficient resources to explore and develop new technologies in an educational context.

Download the final report

Student on-boarding template

The On-Boarding project aimed to create a template for student on-boarding in under graduate and post graduate distance learning programmes administered by University of London Worldwide (UoLW).

Principal findings:

Students found the core study skills course based on the new template useful and engaging, they thought the template was easy to navigate and were satisfied with the quality of the content.

Students' feedback and recommendations about future improvements highlight their need for more course-specific content and support elements.

The survey findings also highlighted the need for constant monitoring and updating of the core study skills guide in order to ensure that all links and resources are accessible.

Integrating Information Literacy skills

This CDE project aimed to provide programme teams with guidance and support on IL that is practical, evidence- and practice-based and scholarship-informed, to enable enhancements in students’ critical and informed use of a range of appropriate information sources.

Download the Final Report [PDF]

Impact of 'Track C' on the Student Experience

This CDE project aimed to investigate the impact of the teaching, learning and assessment framework (Track C) applied to the MSc in Professional Accountancy (MPACC course), to establish early signals of impact on student retention and inform potential further developments.

Principal findings:

  • Most users have prior knowledge of using a VLE, and therefore a certain level of expectation of usability.
  • There is variability in the way students use the online tools and this is influenced by factors such as time available, prior experience in using online tools and the extent to which they understand and value the tools.
  • Users have clear ideas on what would improve their experience of using online tools; for example, tools with features that allow some form of feedback.
  • Data systems need to be designed to allow for links between different data sources, so that a coherent digital picture of users can be captured.
  • Some direct correlation is evident between user and performance data.

MOOCs: The Consequences for Learning and Teaching in Credit Bearing Programmes

This project aimed to examine the impact on campus-based teaching for those who had been involved in MOOC production and presentation.

Principal findings

Involvement with MOOCs has indeed had indirect and unintended outcomes on mainstream teaching practice:

  • By accelerating innovation with digital practices in both distance and campus-based programmes.
  • Transferring good practice gained from participation in MOOCs to other aspects of participants’ practice, career or professional role.

Supporting Progression and Completion

This CDE project set out to identify, and assess the feasibility, of approaches to mitigate against student drop out from the University of London International Programmes. 

Principal findings

Student retention is highly contextual and contingent on institutional and student aims, expectations and conceptions of how ‘success’ is defined.  Interventions at key annual transition points might have significant impact on retention rates and the first year of study is where potentially the biggest impact can be made on student retention.

East African Teacher Educators Learning at a Distance

This CDE Teaching and Research Award-funded project 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.

Download the report

Exploring factors that influence the impact of MOOC learning on participants' professional practice

This CDE Teaching and Research Award-funded project identifies ways in which task-based principles can be used to define, guide and design online CPD activities.

Download the Final Report

Models and theories of learning

There are many different ideas about the best ways to teach, and there has been a great deal of research, of varying quality, into what works best and why.  This resource summarises some of the more important ideas, drawing on substantial, evidence-based pedagogical research.

Some theories of learning (PDF)

What research says about learning (PDF)


Some notes on literacies

The idea of ‘literacy’ or ‘literacies’ is receiving significant attention across higher education. This suggests that the idea is being found useful. 
This short (4 page) paper considers by whom, and why, and for what purposes, and with what actual or potential effects.

Some notes on literacies (PDF)

Expertise in teaching considered as effective scholarly competence

In a short note prepared for the Higher Education Pedagogies, Policy and Practice (HEPPP) Research Network’s Exploring Expertise in Teaching in Higher Education Symposium in 2020, CDE Fellow David Baume explains why be believes expertise in Higher Education can more usefully be considered as scholarly competence, using particular accounts of competence and of scholarship to illustrate his argument. He also explains what he’s got against excellence!  

Expertise in teaching considered as effective scholarly competence (PDF)