What’s going on with curriculum and learning design in UK HE? – help me to find out

One of the great things about working freelance is that you get the opportunity to work with a range of people. Over the past three years I’ve been really lucky to have been able to work with some really fabulous people, and happily I’m in that situation again. For the next couple of months I am working with Helen Beetham on a review of curriculum and learning design across UK HE, commissioned by Sarah Knight at Jisc.

Helen, Sarah and I all worked on the Jisc Curriculum Design and Delivery programmes well over a decade ago. So it is great to come almost full circle with this piece of work. With everything that has happened over the past 2 years, I think this review is really timely. The pandemic and the subsequent “pivot” to emergency online teaching caused a huge cultural shift in learning and teaching practice. As we transition back to more on campus delivery, have the experiences of the past 2 years impacted practice and what are the main challenges facing the sector moving forward?

As part of the review we have developed a survey which had launched today and will be open until 13th June. We’re also looking for vignettes of effective practice, so if you would like to share more, then please do complete the survey and leave your contact details. Or if you want to find out more – just DM me.

We’ll be sharing the outputs of the review, including the survey results, in late summer.

You can access the survey from the link below. Thank you in advance if you are able to participate in this study.


Making and breaking habits: ATU keynote

Last week I had the pleasure of attending and keynoting at the ATU (Atlantic Technological University) Digital Education Conference. It was my first face to face conference in over 2 years, the first time I had been on plane for over 2 years, the first time I had been out of Scotland for over 2 years. So I was a bit worried (stressed?) about travel and being with people before I left. However everything went very well, and it was so lovey to catch up with old friends and new in person.

One of the great things about being given a keynote slot is that you have the luxury of time. For that hour you have the opportunity to speak about something that will hopefully spark off some thoughts and maybe even actions. In my talk I really wanted to provide some time for reflection, not just on the conference itself, but on the experiences of the last couple of years. As we transition back to more on campus activities, are we really giving enough time to consider how we use our physical and digital spaces effectively?

Hybrid/hyflex approaches are being suggested but how do they actually work effectively? Are our physical spaces suitable for that type of learning experiences? Apart from trial and error how are staff learning to design their activities for more mixed mode delivery? What about our students -are we working with them to really understand what works for them as we design learning activities? We all learnt a lot during lockdown about online learning.

The great online “pivot” happened very quickly but what are we pivoting back to? Metaphorically speaking, has our learning and teaching sofa got stuck going round that tricky corner on the staircase in our transition back to not quite fully on campus delivery?

graphic recording of my talk by Maia Thomas

Having spoken at last year’s (fully online) conference I was able to revisit some of the questions around wellbeing – it was quite an interesting comparison. People seemed to be glad to be seeing students and each other in person, but there is still uncertainty, particularly about engaging students. It’s mental health awareness week this week, so this week might be a good starting point to start having these type of conversations around hybrid learning and teaching with colleagues and students.

At this stage I think it is really important that we don’t succumb to what I’m calling “pandemic amnesia” We need to make time to critically reflect on what we have all experienced, how we are all coping and recovering from that experience, so we can start to develop practice and staff development opportunities that meet the needs of our current context.

Many thanks to Carina Ginty for inviting me to speak, and to all her team at ATU for all their work in putting on a great conference and dealing with the challenges of hybrid delivery so professionally.