#LTHEchat 224: Flexibility in Practice. Led by @n_a_gordon on 19th Jan, 8 pm GMT

Photo by SIMON LEE on Unsplash A series of blue waves with lines. Waves of varying lengths and height

Flexible Pedagogy (the focus of my 2014 report for AdvanceHE) sounds great in theory – but can be challenging in practice. Every choice in learning could require a new resource, and every choice in assessment needs a different activity and may require different marking criteria. Managing flexibility at scale – with medium to large classes – becomes a challenge for staff, and too much choice may mean learners struggle to decide what to do, and end up doing nothing. Here we explore some of the issues in how we can deliver flexibility in a pragmatic but useful way.

Flexible Pedagogy encapsulates the idea of giving students choice in the pace, place and mode of learning. Whilst the level of flexibility has varied for many years, with limited choice for many, this shifted in 2020. The Covid-19 pandemic led to a swift change in delivery methods for huge numbers of instructors  across the world, with lockdowns and guidance on social distancing meaning that campus based face to face teaching switched to entirely online learning, with a range of flexibility given the amount of recorded and remote teaching, along with adapted and novel assessment methods.

Typical models of face-to-face campus based learning tend to be quite rigid – with timetables and locations driving the activity of staff and students.  Blended learning can offer some elements of flexibility, at least for some aspects of a course. Thus students may be able to watch some module materials, take part in some activities, and even carry out assessment in their own time and place of choosing. The switch to purely online learning during the pandemic meant that many institutions faced the challenge of offering more flexible learning and assessment, with little time to plan and prepare (Gordon, 2021). This also created new questions about the best way to deliver, where timetabled online sessions allow for choice in where to study, but not when. Whilst recorded material can offer choice in when and where to study, it can lead to students not studying at all!

For practitioners, flexibility for learners creates new challenges – as each choice can double the workload in terms of preparation and delivery, and can increase the assessment burden. Thus offering flexibility needs to be considered in terms of how that is resourced, and can be a catalyst to review and revise what is actually taught, and how it is assessed. Identifying flexible and scalable teaching approaches is a challenge – one for which there is no silver bullet. Technology can aid – with adaptive learning, automating aspects of assessment and offering new flexible forms of assessment – though these can require a lot of preparation and development time. 

One benefit of technology solutions to supporting flexible learning is the opportunity to gamify aspects of learning (Gordon et al, 2013), and to acknowledge that for many students, assessment is the trigger to their work and can thus be used to direct and guide them in what to do (Gordon, 2010). Assessment that is flexible does create its own unique problems. Allowing students to take assessment at different times and in different places raises questions about fairness and robustness of process. Alternatives to more traditional exams can include question banks, where students get unique “exam papers”: though that raises the challenge of ensuring there is sufficient equivalence between these, as well as the additional challenge of the increased marking time if it requires human checking, since the typical patterns of incorrect answers are not available! Offering different forms of assessment – such as individual versus team, or essay versus exam versus presentation – creates the same twin issues of equity and marking time and process.

So flexibility is a great principle, and as practitioners we should consider how far we can deliver it, and identify what tools and approaches we can use to make it viable in practice. For most, a mix of fixed and flexible teaching and assessment is likely to be the best we can manage – though in 2022 with the continuing challenge of Coronavirus we all need to be flexible in practice!


Gordon, N.A. (2021) A permanent Pivot to online learning, or will universities bounce back to normal. Academia Letters, p.2.

Gordon, N. A. (2016) Flexible Learning in Computer Science. New Directions in the Teaching of Physical Sciences, 11(1).

Gordon N.A. (2014) Flexible Pedagogies: technology-enhanced learning. The Higher Education Academy. DOI:10.13140/2.1.2052.5760

Gordon, N., Brayshaw, M. and Grey, S. (2013) Maximising gain for minimal pain: Utilising natural game mechanics. Innovation in Teaching and Learning in Information and Computer Sciences, 12(1), pp.27-38.

Gordon, N.A. (2010) Enabling personalised learning through formative and summative assessment. In Technology-supported environments for personalized learning: Methods and case studies (pp. 268-284). IGI Global.

Neil Gordon


Neil Gordon is a Senior Lecturer in Computer Science at the University of Hull in England. Neil is a National Teaching Fellow, and a Principal Fellow of the UK Higher Education Academy. He has produced a number of reports for AdvanceHE on developments in Higher Education, including the way that computer technology can enable flexible learning, the role of assessment in education, and ways to address issues in retention and attainment in computing education. His awards include University Teaching Fellowships and awards for scholarship in teaching and learning. Neil’s research interests include applications of computer science to enable true technology enhanced learning, issues around sustainable development, as well as more discipline specific work on applications of computer algebra and formal methods. He has published over 50 journal articles, a similar number of refereed conference proceedings, and a variety of book chapters, reports and other publications.


Q1 How flexible should we be in teaching, learning and assessment?

Q2 Has pandemic online learning made things more or less flexible?

Q3 Is flexibility for students flexible for staff?

Q4 Does flexible pedagogy lead to inequity?

Q5 When is inflexible pedagogic practice acceptable?

Q6 What’s next for flexible learning?



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#LTHEchat 223: A time for mindful academic practices? Led by @sd_elkington on 12th Jan, 8pm GMT

Photo taken by Alfred Schrock via Unsplash – A perfectly shaped water lily floated happily in a pond at the Atlanta Botanical Garden. It was early morning and still had drops of morning dew on its leaves,

As we begin the new year, we are faced with the prospect of continued uncertainty, anxiety, and a sector in a state of flux. In many ways, the pandemic has been a focusing event for Higher Education, compelling universities to rethink how the significant resources devoted to learning, teaching, and assessment might be reconfigured (even reimagined) to better support student learning across different modes of delivery. Indeed, the proliferation of digital learning technologies accompanying this movement has meant that we as educators have had to adapt to the demands of changing patterns of work and student learning, with the enactment of academic practice occurring across a multitude of different, inter-connected, digital, and physical environments. There is no doubt that many (if not most) students and staff would prefer certain aspects of university learning, teaching, and assessment to be different to what they are currently experiencing. But this begs the question of what kind of learning should be assumed in and through our teaching and assessments for such an uncertain and changeable environment? 

We might answer that students need to be able to plan, set goals, establish priorities, as well as move seamlessly back and forth between often disparate (physical and virtual) tasks and settings. Afterall, students need to be able to think about the meaning of new forms of information and connect it to what they already know. They will need to retain meaningful information and be able to access it during tasks, often long after the initial act of learning has taken place. Students need to be able to explore interconnections between and extend their grasp of different perspectives on their learning. Furthermore, they will need to find meaning in these interconnections and perspectives, cultivating, and articulating new insights and practices. 

Learning, when conceived in this way, is revealed to be inherently complex, dynamic, multi-faceted, and influenced to a large extent by the context(s) in which it takes place. And yet, our collective attention when it comes to teaching and assessment tends to be on educational effectiveness and efficiency rather than on the extent to which our approaches and strategies of choice support diverse, sustainable, and intentional ways of knowing that honour and empower learner experience and development, as well as minimise the negative consequences of stress and anxiety for our students. 

It could be argued that what we teach has become less important than how we teach it. In times of increasing stress and anxiety, established practice mindsets we hold regarding learning and teaching can work against us, encouraging a quiet mindlessness, unhelpful during times of heightened uncertainty. When we act mindlessly, we act as if on autopilot, pre-programmed to act according to the practice behaviours we made sense of in the past, rather than recognising and responding to their tensions with the present. In seeking certainty and security, we tend to reach for those things – those practiced routines and interventions – we believe we know well and tend to view such situations mindlessly as a consequence. In contrast, Langer (2016) has advocated for educators to create opportunities for ‘mindful learning’. Mindful learning is a confluence of a flexible state of mind in which individuals are actively engaged in the present, noticing new things and are sensitive to context. When we act mindlessly, our behaviour is rule and routine governed. When we are mindful, rules and routines may help to guide our behaviours but do not predetermine them (Zajonc, 2013). Research shows us that mindful learning can increase competent practice, memory, creativity, and positive affect – as well as decrease stress and anxiety (see Bassarear et al., 2015; Schwind et al., 2017). 

For Langer, being mindful in learning is the simple act of drawing novel distinctions. Providing educational experiences that encourage and sustain contrasting perspectives, requiring a focused attention and open awareness to context and others strengthens, extends, and refines the capacity for mindful learning by way of reinforcing or challenging learners’ expectations about how things are supposed to be. To seek to develop mindful learning is to seek a greater sense of authorship, authenticity, and creativity in day-to-day working practices – characterised by a willingness to engage, to have a go, and learn; a preparedness to listen, explore and an openness to new experiences and perspectives. 

It is generally understood that the expectations of HE places great demands on student performance, often leading them to experience stress and anxiety, with negative consequences for their academic success and personal wellbeing. In many cases, the competing demands of learning and teaching during the pandemic have compounded such negativity (for students and staff). Mindful learning both requires and embraces a more encompassing and flexible view of student learning development; one that attends to a number of affective self-regulatory elements that ought to be considered at the point of design – namely: 

– student sensitivity to context and new perspectives, 
– intentionality of attention, 
– managing personal responses to tasks and feedback, and 
– the willingness to think and do differently in the face of uncertain outcomes. 

If it is through the curriculum, that we are to empower our students and graduates to develop the self-awareness and wide-ranging qualities and behaviours to prepare for and thrive in whatever comes next for them; the ability to think, work, and learn mindfully is surely crucial in preparing our students for increasingly uncertain future professional lives. But what forms might such a mindful curriculum take? 


Bassarear, T., Byrnes, K., Cherkowski, S., Hanson, K., Kelly, J., Latta, M. M., & Soloway, G. (2015). Mindful teaching and learning: developing a pedagogy of well-being. Lexington Books.

Langer, E. J. (2016). The power of mindful learning. Hachette UK.

Schwind, J. K., McCay, E., Beanlands, H., Martin, L. S., Martin, J., & Binder, M. (2017). Mindfulness practice as a teaching-learning strategy in higher education: A qualitative exploratory pilot study. Nurse education today50, 92-96. [Online] https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0260691716303197

Zajonc, A. (2013). Contemplative pedagogy: A quiet revolution in higher education. New Directions for Teaching and Learning, 134, 83-94.


Sam Elkington

Dr. Sam Elkington (Principal Lecturer, Learning and Teaching Excellence) Teesside University, UK

Sam Elkington joined Teesside University in September 2018 where he leads on the University’s learning and teaching enhancement portfolio. Sam is a National Teaching Fellow (2021) and Principal Fellow of the Higher Education Academy (PFHEA) and has worked in Higher Education for over 15 years with extensive experience working across teaching, research and academic leadership and policy domains. Most recently Sam worked for Advance HE (formerly the Higher Education Academy) where he was national lead for Assessment and Feedback and Flexible Learning in Higher Education. Sam maintains a diverse range of research interests with a track record in developing high impact pedagogic research work in the areas of assessment and feedback, student engagement, learning spaces, and creativity in higher education. Sam’s latest book (Irons and Elkington, 2021) showcases the latest thinking in Enhancing Student Learning through Formative Assessment and Feedback. 

Mindful Academic Practices 6 Questions 💬

1) What does mindful learning mean to you? And who stands to benefit?

2) What kinds of pedagogic practices and environments are best suited to nurturing mindful learning?

3) How is mindful learning supported and/or constrained by our institutions?

4) To what extent are our most established forms of assessment representative of mindless assessment design?

5) How could the technologies we use in our teaching practices be utilised to support mindful learning in students?

6) How can mindful learning be more present and more fully part of your work with students and colleagues?

Wakelet of #LTHEchat 223 🌐 

Read: wke.lt/w/s/wCTcKs

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Festive greetings, thankyous, and a welcome to the incoming #LTHEchat organising team

We would like to take this opportunity to thank our current organising team. Thank you Suzanne Faulkner for being an excellent mentor and to Danielle Hinton and Sandra Huskinson for all your hard work behind the scenes. You have all been wonderful.

In January we will welcome our new incoming team. Danielle Hinton will step up to mentor Dr Jonny Johnston and Louise Rees.

If you wish to become a member of a future organising team we would love to hear from you. Please complete this short form to let us know.

As the year draws to a close we would also like to thank all members of the organising teams, AdvanceHE who organise the collaborative chat on the last Wednesday of each month and all #LTHEchat guests and the community for your ongoing support and lively engagement.

We look forward to new chats in 2022 and would welcome volunteers to be guests and also suggestions for new topics you would be interested in exploring.

We wish you all a special festive season and a healthy and happy New Year. 

The #LTHEchat steering group

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#LTHEchat 222: The Gratitude Christmas Special. Led by: @hintondm @FieryRed1 and @SFaulknerPandO

Photo by Jill Wellington via Pixabay

Firstly Danielle, Sandra and Suzanne would like to say what a pleasure it has been to serve the brilliant #LTHEChat community as the organizing team for this term under the ever helpful watchful eye of the brilliant Sue Beckingham, @suebecks. This was very much a whole team effort, thank you! 

The #LTHEchat would not exist without the fantastic input from all of those who agree to host a session and of course the brilliant community who return week after week to share their knowledge and experiences openly and honestly. This community welcomes everyone with open arms and for that we are most grateful. 

We hope you’ve enjoyed taking part as much as we have. 

The focus of the #LTHEChat this week is gratitude. There is no doubt that the last 18-20 months have been filled with challenges, and for many of us, sad losses. We have all had our struggles to face in the last 18-20 months. 

In this chat we would like to end the year on a high, whilst acknowledging  the most difficult time we have all had. This week we will focus on what and who has helped you through this difficult time. Let’s end 2021 with gratitude. 

We want to contribute to a ‘tool box’ cookbook of ideas to help support us going forward into 2022.


Danielle M. Hinton @hintondm e-mail: d.m.hinton@bham.ac.uk

Danielle Hinton (SFHEA) is an Educational Developer at the Higher Education Futures institute (HEFi), University of Birmingham. Danielle has worked in a variety of roles in Higher Education over the last 20 years including instructional design, e-learning and librarianship. In particular Danielle teaches on Birmingham’s PGCHE, supports HEA Fellowship scheme, enhancement projects and CPD. She is particularly interested in active learning, the emotions of learning and teaching, enhancement of learning through technologies, distance learning and serious play in Higher Education. 


Image of host Danielle Hinton.

Sandra Huskinson @FieryRed1   e-mail: sandrahuskinson@yahoo.co.uk 

Bio: Building on a background in art and interface design Sandra is an experienced educational consultant. Working for a variety of institutions over a number of years she has designed and developed a range courses, CPD developments for online and classroom based programs. 


Image of host Sandra Huskinson.

Suzanne Faulkner @SFaulknnerPandO     e-mail: suzanne.faulkner@strath.ac.uk

Bio: Suzanne Faulkner is a teaching fellow in Prosthetics and Orthotics, within the department of Biomedical Engineering at the University of Strathclyde in Glasgow, she is also a facilitator trained in the LEGO® Serious Play® (LSP) methodology. Suzanne is passionate about enhancing the student experience by focusing on improving student engagement, utilising social media in learning and teaching and incorporating playful learning. She has been nominated and shortlisted for several teaching excellence awards and is currently undertaking an EdD at the University of Strathclyde with a view to exploring the use of LSP to enhance participation of non-native speakers of English in group work activities. 


Image of host Suzanne Faulkner.

Q1. What app or tool have you discovered in the last 18-20 months that have enhanced your working life either with colleagues or students?

Q2. What article/book/podcast has made the most profound impact on your teaching and supporting learning practice over the last 18-20 months and why?

Q3. Thank a hero (colleague, student, icon etc) that has made a big impact on your teaching and supporting learning practice over the last 18-20 months 

Q4. What online fun interactive activity have you added to your work/life repertoire in the last 20 months?

Q5. The last few months have been a challenge to our networking abilities. What methods have you utilised to remain connected with people and connect with new people?

Q6. What non-work related must read book/film would you recommend over the Christmas break?

Q7. Bonus: Be a Star and grab a handful of LEGO bricks (or online), build a star decoration, share photo & tag #BuildToGive #LTHEchat @LEGO_Group will donate a set to children in need

https://wke.lt/w/s/Dr1oIV via Wakelet 

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#LTHEchat 221: Student Unions’, the Student Experience and the University. Led by Colina Wright @colina_wright

Naassom Azevedo via Unsplash

Please note that the use of the term Students’ Union within this discussion is intended to cover Student Associations and Student Guilds. 

I love working within Students’ Unions (SU’s), having done so since graduating over 20 years ago. I got involved in my SU when, as I approached Christmas in my second year, I had to rethink whether university was right for me. I was a young black female, the first in my family to attend university but fortunately supported by the fact attending university was the norm within my (white) stepfather’s history. I struggled with a lack of understanding with regards to what university was. This was before the discussions about BAME attainment gaps, the language didn’t exist and if it did, it would actively have been discouraged from broader conversation, through fear of institutions being perceived as racist organisations. 

It was my engagement with a volunteering project, led by the SU with young girls from an underprivileged area of the city, that got me through my university experience. My SU introduced me to the widening participation agenda and the empowerment of young people – both students and those projects set out to help them – and created a desire in me to pursue a career whereby I could have a positive impact on the community. And so my journey began…

Sadly SU’s are increasingly coming under fire for stereotypical behaviours: initiations and anti-social behaviour demonstrated by some sports teams, encouraging or preventing freedom of expression within societies and unfortunately, not for the positive contributions they make within their respective cities/towns. These positive contributions include, but are not limited to: contributing to the local economy, raising money for charities, numerous volunteering projects with local citizens or generally providing developmental opportunities for university students.

I believe there is something truly unique about the opportunities SU’s present and the difference they can make to students and the community; they have the ability to genuinely be life-changing in addition to contributing positively to university recruitment and retention. They exist to enhance the student experience but can often be perceived within the university context as parasitic, rather than symbiotic relationship. 

This tweet chat aims to explore:

  • The relationships academic and professional services staff may and could have with SU’s 
  • What  SU’s can do to ensure that we work together to achieve our collective mission, that is, to enhance the student experience and create leaders of the future. 

Further Reading

Amirianzadeh, M., Jaafari, P., Ghourchian, N. and Jowkar, B., (2011) Role of student associations in leadership development of engineering students. Procedia-Social and Behavioral Sciences, 30, pp.382-385. https://pdf.sciencedirectassets.com/277811/1-s2.0-S1877042811X0023X/1-s2.0-S1877042811019008/main.pdf 

Atilade, T. and Wickremasinghe, R. (2021) Where are the black squares now? WonkHE 9/7/21, https://wonkhe.com/blogs/where-are-the-black-squares-now/

Blake, S. and Roberts, L. (2021) Is partnership possible in a pandemic?, WonkHE 24/9/21, https://wonkhe.com/blogs/is-partnership-possible-in-a-pandemic/ 

Dickinson, J. (2021) What on earth is student representation for? WonkHE 1/6/21, https://wonkhe.com/blogs/what-on-earth-is-student-representation-for/ 

O’Donnell, P. Brabner, R. and Dickinson, J. (2021) Students will build back community better – if we support them to do so, WonkHE 11/6/21, https://wonkhe.com/blogs/what-have-students-ever-done-for-the-community/ 

Phipps, C., (2020) “We already do enough around equality and diversity”: Action taken by student union officers to promote LGBT+ inclusion in university sport. Sociology of Sport Journal, 37(4), pp.310-318.


Colina Wright

Colina Wright @colina_wright is currently the CEO of the University of Sunderland Students’ Union and will become the CEO at the Union of Students, Derby, in the new year. She has a strong background in membership engagement following other experience gained at De Montfort University, Sheffield Hallam and New College Nottingham. Her experience within both FE and HE Students’ Unions’ followed her own experience of being an Elected Officer at Sheffield Hallam University (Multicultural and International Students’ Officer) and her passion for student voice, inclusive practice and the power of Students’ Union to create real impact and change has continued to characterise her career to date. She holds a Masters in Business Administration from De Montfort University and an BA (Hons.) in Communication Studies from Sheffield Hallam University. She has served as a Trustee for Buckinghamshire New University SU and Wearside Women in Need.

Q1. What do you consider to be the role of the Students’ Union in the student experience?

Q2. From your experience what are the main issues and/or successes of your student representation system? How do you think this can be enhanced?

Q3. Excluding the Student Rep system, to what extent have you worked together with students/ the student voice to contribute to the overall learning experience and with what outcome?

Q4. The Students’ Union can be an effective mechanism to support internal / external student barometers (eg NSS). What does the Student Union involvement within your institution look like and how do you think it could work more effectively?

Q5. Are there (or have there been) collaborative opportunities/ student led projects within your area of work that can either benefit from (or have benefited) from student engagement? How has this made a difference to the learning environment?

Q6. How can you work more effectively with your Student Union to ensure your students take advantage of leadership and developmental opportunities and enhance students’ employability?

https://wke.lt/w/s/9m422Y via Wakelet 

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#LTHEchat 220: Decolonising Learning Technology. Led by Professor John Traxler @johntraxler

Image created by TierneyMJ via Shutterstock

What is Decolonising and What is Learning Technology?

This part is easy. Learning technology, the phrase adopted by the Association for Learning Technology (ALT), embraces digital learning, e-learning and online learning, formal and informal, intended, spontaneous or accidental, but also the pedagogies, philosophies, theories and cultures that surround and inform them. It is also educational technology or ‘edtech’ but this and perhaps the other terms all have assumed connections and associations with formal education systems, and we need to bear.

This part is less easy. Here goes. A manifesto from students at Keele University (2021) provides us with a working definition. “Decolonization involves identifying colonial systems, structures and relationships, and working to challenge those systems. It is not “integration” or simply the token inclusion of the intellectual achievements of non-white cultures. Rather, it involves a paradigm shift from a culture of exclusion and denial to the making of space for other political philosophies and knowledge systems. It’s a culture shift to think more widely about why common knowledge is what it is, and in so doing adjusting cultural perceptions and power relations in real and significant ways.” (Sadly and ironically, this uses the American English spelling.)

This sounds both highly political and fairly abstract however, events at the universities in Cape Town and Oxford, tagged as #RhodesMustFall, make it clear that feelings run high. Recent news about the repatriation of ‘Elgin Marbles’ – to use the colonialists’ terminology – and the Benin Bronzes and the simmering discontent about the appropriation of indigenous knowledge from cultures as diverse as the Sami and the San by pharmaceutical companies round out this picture.

A recent newspaper article entitled ‘Lecturers are key to ending colonial epistemicide’ (University World News 2021) provides an excellent and more accessible overview, saying “The simplest definition of decolonisation of the African university is the process of undoing all legacies of colonialism.” Understandably, given the African university context, the article does not focus on the legacies of colonialism within UK universities or the colonisers more widely. We must recognise that there are multiple experiences that learning technologists can help to decolonise, the Punjabi student in an English university, the Aboriginal student in an Australian university, the Kikuyu student in a Kenyan university, the Kabyle student in an Algerian university, the Basque student in a Spanish university and so on.

The first of three ALT webinars on the topic provided some other contributions saying, ‘Great to see a more detailed definition of decolonisation. Not just making space for minorities/ migrant communities, but highlighting colonial structures, and challenging them. As much as we wish, technology is rarely neutral (or neutrally used). ‘and talking of ‘undoing all legacies of colonialism.’

There are also movements to ‘decolonise the curriculum’ and moves to ‘decolonise research’ but what exactly might it actually mean? And given the moves to decolonise the curriculum, what should technologists do to decolonise learning technology before handing it on to curriculum professionals?

The Implications of Decolonising Learning Technology

The forthcoming #LTHEchat will help develop an improved understanding of the implications of ‘decolonisation’ for us all whether we are learning technologists, academics, allied professionals and/or researchers who use learning technology, and especially ‘edtech’. Decolonising is about combating the ways in which learning technology represents and reproduces the ideas and values of the dominant white anglophone majority. There is clearly a resonance between a mission to decolonise learning technology and a mission to decolonise the curriculum. Educators are not learning technologists and so the role of learning technologists is to decolonise learning technology before handing it onto curriculum specialists.

 The topic had been on my mind for quite a few years in different forms. I wrote a paper five years ago (Traxler 2017) that implicitly tackled one aspect of it, namely the technology itself. I asserted that digital technology was instrumental in increasing the disadvantage of peoples, communities and cultures that were different and distant from the norms, values, habits, styles, languages and cultures of the global and national mainstreams. Specifically those distant and different from the dominant global Anglophone digital corporations. These represented the dominant largely white, European, metropolitan and bourgeois ethos of the colonial and post-colonial education systems and subsequently the neo-colonial global digital corporations, agencies and foundations.  Digital technology in education was re-arming forms of colonialism or perhaps arming forms of neo-colonialism.

This happened in a multitude of ways. I can think of many but perhaps the emergent ‘decolonising learning technology’ community can add many more. Some include:

  • Digital technology as a conduit to access knowledge and information
  • Technologies of search (eg Google)
  • Digital technology changes many aspects of language and of learning
  • ‘Official’ languages used by the education system’s learning technology
  • Critique the research that underpins digital learning and learning technology.

What emerges is the possibility of a simplistic but structured approach to decolonising learning technology. Working upwards and outwards from:

  • Hardware
  • Operating systems and system software
  • Applications especially browsers, web2.0, social media and open source, interfaces and interactions
  • Dedicated educational technologies especially MOOCs, VLEs and the surrounding and supporting software systems such as plagiarism detection, learning analytics and automated assessment
  • Procurement, deployment, training, support, management and maintenance
  • Buildings and architecture
  • Curriculum design
  • Edtech policy and guidance and
  • Cultural and societal expectations

We need to be asking at each level, where is the colonialization, how does it happen and what should we do?

There are risks of course. Firstly, that any of these levels, decolonisation will degenerate into targets, objectives, percentages and tick lists. Secondly, that it will be seen as offering something extra or remedial or palliative to minority communities rather than offering something enriching to everyone.  Thirdly, efforts at decolonisation will be driven by members of the majority community and inevitably seen through the lens of their (mis)understanding and privileges. Lastly, decolonising learning technology and decolonising the curriculum can somehow happen without decolonising the institutions and organisations.

Pragmatically and operationally, any process of change must appeal to managers, shareholders and the rank-and-file of any organisation as well as its ideologues, liberals and progressives. This division sounds like a categorisation from the Diffusion of Innovations frameworks, a rephrasing of, for example, ‘innovators’ and ‘early adopters’. Certainly any organisational transformation needs a Theory of Change and the Diffusion of Innovations provides at least a practical workable outline. It suggests working with early adopters and innovators supporting and encouraging the development of examples and pilots, working with opinion-formers and gate-keepers before moving onto increased institutional programmes and only lastly resorting to regulation and enforcement, but most of all recognising that at every step these are issues of ‘hearts and minds’.

References and Further Reading

Adams, R. (2021). Can artificial intelligence be decolonized?. Interdisciplinary Science Reviews, 46(1-2), 176-197.

Elers, S. (2014). Maori are scum, stupid, lazy: maori according to Google. Te Kaharoa, 7(1).

Hall, R. (2013) On the Secular Crisis and a Qualitative Idea of the University. Available online: http://www.richard-hall.org/tag/history/page/4/  (accessed on 13 October 2021).

Keele (2021) Keele’s Manifesto For Decolonising The Curriculum? Available online at  http://www.keele.ac.uk/equalitydiversity/equalityframeworksandactivities/equalityawardsandreports/equalityawards/raceequalitycharter/keeledecolonisingthecurriculumnetwork/

Mail & Guardian (2012) available at https://mg.co.za/article/2012-12-27-zumas-dog-comments-meant-to-decolonise-the-african-mind/  accessed 13 October 2021

Meier, A., Goto, K., & Wörmann, M. (2014, June). Thumbs Up to Gesture Controls? A Cross-Cultural Study on Spontaneous Gestures. In International Conference on Cross-Cultural Design (pp. 211-217). Springer, Cham

Millwood, R. (no date) available online at https://www.teachthought.com/learning/a-visual-summary-the-most-important-learning-theories/ and elsewhere, accessed 18 October 2021

News24 (2013) Available online https://www.news24.com/news24/Technology/News/Mxlish-the-12th-official-SA-language-20130328, accessed 13 October 2021

Traxler, J. & Lally, V. (2015) The Crisis and the Response: After the Dust Had Settled, Interactive Learning Environments 24(5), pp1016-1024

Traxler, J. (2017) Learning with Mobiles in Developing Countries –Technology, Language and Literacy, International Journal of Mobile & Blended Learning, 9(2): pp1-15

Traxler, J. (2018) Learning with Mobiles: the Global South, Research in Comparative and International Education, Vol. 13, Number 1, pp 152 – 175

Traxler, J. (2018), Digital Literacy: A Palestinian Refugee Perspective, Research in Learning Technology, Vol. 26, pp1 – 21 https://journal.alt.ac.uk/index.php/rlt/article/view/1983

Traxler, J., Khlaif, Z., Nevill, A., Affouneh, S., Salha, S., Zuhd, A., & Trayek, F. (2019). Living under occupation: Palestinian teachers’ experiences and their digital responses. Research in Learning Technology, 27. https://doi.org/10.25304/rlt.v27.22

World University News (2021) Lecturers are key to ending colonial epistemicide, World University News, available online at https://www.universityworldnews.com/post.php?story=20211006114502190


Professor John Traxler

John Traxler, FRSA, @johntraxler is Professor of Digital Learning in the Institute of Education at the University of Wolverhampton and UNESCO Chair: Innovative Informal Digital Learning in Disadvantaged and Development Contexts. He has extensive experience developing e-learning and mobile learning capacity amongst university teachers. Over the last five years, he has become involved in policy and strategy. He is a frequent international keynote speaker, and has worked with a number of international agencies and international corporates.

Q1. How do the technologies we use in our work represent, reinforce and reproduce the ideas, concepts, images and values of particular countries, communities and cultures?

Q2. Do educational technology systems embody the teaching, learning and assessment ideas of mostly one community and culture?

Q3. Do the theories of e-learning come from one particular cultural and pedagogical tradition?

Q4. Which communities or cultures are different and distant from those represented by our technologies?

Q5. How would you define decolonisation? Who would benefit?

Q6. How is decolonising our work supported and/or constrained by our institutions, our IT and our curriculum colleagues?

https://wke.lt/w/s/ZKV_t3 via Wakelet

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#LTHEchat 219: Supporting and Assessing Student Groupwork. Led by Peter Hartley @profpeterbrad, Mark Dawson @Mark_g_dawson & Sue Beckingham @SueBecks.

An image of a group of students working together by Robert Kneschke on Canva

The significant expansion of student numbers across Higher Education (e.g. numbers doubling between 1992 and 2016, ONS, 2016) led to a corresponding increase in the use of student groupwork. While some of this expansion was inevitably prompted by resource constraints, there were also powerful and longstanding educational arguments in favour of developing teamwork skills (e.g. Hartley, 1997; Jaques 1991). This was not just to placate the repeated demands from employers for HE to produce more ‘work-ready’ graduates (which usually highlighted areas such as communication and teamwork) but also an acknowledgment of the value of social and active learning practices in education (Hoidn & Reusser, 2020).  

A range of teaching resources helped lecturers to emphasise the importance of collaboration and cooperation, including collections of group exercises and problem-solving tasks, games and simulations (e.g. Race, 2000), and guides/handbooks on small group teaching (e.g. Exley and Dennick, 2004). Several courses/modules experimented with self-analysis tools such as Belbin’s Team Roles Inventory (e.g. Macdonnell, 2012, using the approach from Belbin, 2010). 

Innovations have included new teaching methods such as Team-Based Learning (Team-Based Learning Collaborative, nd) and SCALE-UP [Student Centred Active Learning Environment with Upside-down Pedagogies] (Nottingham Trent University, nd). The HEFCE-funded project investigating how these methods could be scaled up across institutions demonstrated significant impact on student learning (see at https://aclproject.org.uk/the-project/ ). Innovations in assessed project work across the sector often involved external ‘clients’ and applied learning to simulate the demands from possible future employers. 

The majority of innovations have focused on groups and teams which worked predominantly face-to-face. That focus is also obvious in guidance for students (e.g. Hartley and Dawson, 2010), and even in texts published more recently (Hopkins and Reid, 2018). The online pivot caused by the pandemic moved us all online. As a result, we all now have some experience of online collaboration and we also have technologies available, such as MS Teams / Zoom, which enable both staff and students to collaborate and share work online relatively easily. At the same time, and given extra impetus by recent events, there has been a push in many Universities to provide their students with opportunities to network and learn online using international groupwork through innovative education practices such as virtual exchange and collaborative online international learning [COIL] (Leask, 2020). 

We argue that teamwork skills are equally if not more important than they have been in the past for all students regardless of discipline – Matthew Syed provides data from both academia and commerce to suggest that “pretty much all the most challenging work today is undertaken in groups for a simple reason: problems are too complex for any one person to tackle alone” (Syed, 2019, p.14). Teamwork and interpersonal skills remain highly valued graduate skills (Prospects, 2021). 

An increasing number of studies reflect upon our pandemic experience and suggest lessons to be carried forward (e.g. Specht et al, 2021, and the other articles in this special edition of JPAAP). ‘Next Steps for Teaching and Learning’, the report from the National Forum for the Enhancement of Teaching and Learning in Higher Education (2021) published last week, highlights opportunities to develop “new models … for the delivery of teaching, learning and assessment”. Ensuring we consider equality, diversity and inclusion (EDI) in groupwork, and ways this can contribute to developing inclusivity and a sense of belonging for all students is vital.    

Given this new context, isn’t this the right time to re-evaluate our aims and assumptions regarding the ways that we support and assess students’ teamwork?

To support both their work at university and in whatever career they choose to pursue afterwards, we believe that all students need to develop a flexible approach to teamwork which integrates online and face-to-face practices. This is a major theme of our revised handbook (Hartley, Dawson and Beckingham, in press). But does this require any fundamental shifts in the ways that we support and assess student groupwork or are the underlying issues and concerns unchanging? We look forward to discussing this. 


Belbin, R. M. (2010) Team Roles at Work 2nd edn. London: Routledge.

Exley, K. and Dennick, R. (2004) Small Group Teaching: Tutorials, Seminars and Beyond (Key Guides for Effective Teaching in Higher Education). London: RoutledgeFalmer. 

Hartley, P (1997) Group Communication. London: Routledge.

Hartley, P. and Dawson, M. (2010) Success in Groupwork.  Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.

Hoidn, S. & Reusser, K. (2020) Foundations of Student-Centered Learning and Teaching in Hoidn, S. & Klemencic, M. (Eds) The Routledge International Handbook of Student-Centered Learning & Teaching in Higher Education. Abingdon: Routledge. P. 17-46.

Hopkins and Reid (2018) The Academic Skills Handbook: Your Guide to Success in Writing, Thinking and Communicating at University (Student Success). London: Sage.

Jaques, D. (1991) Learning in Groups. London: Kogan Page

Leask, B. (2020). Embracing the possibilities of disruption. Higher Education Research and Development, 39(7), 1388–1391. https://doi.org/10.1080/07294360.2020.1824211

Macdonnell, J. (2012). Using the Belbin Team-Role Self Perception-Inventory to Form Groups and Assign Roles for Media Production Assessment. Media Education Research Journal, 3(1), 50-62.

National Forum for the Enhancement of Teaching and Learning in Higher Education. (2021) Next Steps for Teaching and Learning. https://www.teachingandlearning.ie/vital/nextsteps/

Nottingham Trent University (nd) SCALE-UP. https://www.ntu.ac.uk/about-us/academic-development-and-quality/innovations-in-learning-and-teaching/scale-up

ONS (Office for National Statistics) (2016) How has the student population changed? https://www.ons.gov.uk/peoplepopulationandcommunity/birthsdeathsandmarriages/livebirths/articles/howhasthestudentpopulationchanged/2016-09-20

Prospects (2021) What skills do employers want? https://www.prospects.ac.uk/careers-advice/applying-for-jobs/what-skills-do-employers-want

Race, P. (2000) 500 Tips on Group Learning. London: Kogan Page.

Specht, D., Chatterton, P., Hartley, P., and Saunders, P.  (2021)  Developing Belief in Online Teaching: Efficacy and digital transformation. Journal of Perspectives in Applied Academic Practice, Vol 9, 2, p. 68-76


Syed, M. (2019) Rebel Ideas: The power of thinking differently. London: John Murray Press

Team-Based Learning Collaborative (nd) TBL Published Papers. https://www.teambasedlearning.org/recent-papers/


Peter Hartley @profpeterbradPeter Hartley is now freelance Higher Education Consultant, and Visiting Professor at Edge Hill University, following previous roles as Professor of Education Development at Bradford and Professor of Communication at Sheffield Hallam. National Teaching Fellow since 2000, he has promoted new technology in education. Recent/ongoing consultancy includes work on institutional strategies for learning spaces, mentoring candidates for NTF/CATE, and assessment (usually involving concepts and approaches from the PASS project: https://www.bradford.ac.uk/pass/   Current interests also include concept mapping and visual thinking (project led by Dawne Irving-Bell from Edge Hill), and developments in human communication and online interaction.

An image of Peter Hartley.

Mark Dawson @Mark_g_dawson

Mark is currently a full-time research student at Coventry University investigating how Collaborative Online International Learning (COIL) can enhance higher education practice. He previously held roles in student pastoral support, learning development and widening participation/outreach at Leeds Beckett, the University of Bradford and the University of Cambridge respectively. In addition to his higher education experience/qualifications, Mark also holds teaching/assessment qualifications for secondary and further education.

An image of Mark Dawson.

Sue Beckingham @suebecks

Sue is a National Teaching Fellow, Principal Lecturer in Digital Analytics and Technologies in the Department of Computing at Sheffield Hallam University with a lead role in Learning Teaching and Assessment. She is also a Senior Fellow of the Higher Education Academy, a Fellow of the Staff and Educational Development Association, a Certified Management and Business Educator and a Visiting Fellow at Edge Hill University. 

An image of Sue Beckingham.


Q1. What student groupwork do you support and/or assess and what are the current challenges you face?

Q2. Has the pandemic changed the way that students work in groups – do these changes have long-term implications?

Q3. How do you expect student groupwork to change over the next few years and what does this mean for your role?

Q4. What technologies do your student groups use now and how do you support them with these?

Q5. What are the best ways to assess the student groups you are involved with that address inclusivity?

Q6. What is the best advice you can offer to staff who want to offer the most effective support to student groups as we (hopefully) make an effective transformation into the ‘new normal’?

https://wke.lt/w/s/g71EhC via Wakelet

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#LTHEchat 218: Expertise: A New Discourse for Learning & Teaching in Higher Education? Led by Dr Helen King, @drhelenking.

Photo of 5 yellow stars on a pink and blue background by Towfiqu barbhuiya on Unsplash

The concept of excellence is ubiquitous within education and many other sectors. But what do we mean by it? What does it look like? And how can we support colleagues to develop it?

The word ‘excellence’ is derived from the Latin excellere (ex – ‘out, beyond’; celsus – ‘lofty’) meaning outstanding. For me as an educational developer with a passion for supporting colleagues in higher education to develop and improve their teaching, there are a number of difficulties with the concept of excellence. We don’t have a common understanding of what it actually is – excellence is measured through outputs such as student satisfaction and graduate outcomes, which tells us little about the characteristics of the inputs, the teachers who support the learning. By dictionary definition / derivation it is highly exclusive (not everybody can be outstanding or above average), and it feels like a point to be reached or a static road.

Expertise, on the other hand, has a deep and broad foundation of research, theory and literature. The characteristics of expertise have been researched in a wide range of professions including music, sport, business, surgery and education. This research explores the characteristics of the person in that field or profession, rather than simply the outcomes of their work. By derivation expertise is all about process, it’s a continual journey throughout one’s career: from the Latin expertus (past participle of experiri – ‘to try’: also the etymological origin of ‘experience’ and ‘experiment’) and thus is potentially available to all.

A simple synopsis of the literature includes three main aspects that characterise expertise (e.g. see Skovholdt 2016 for a useful summary): 1) high performance in one domain based on subject knowledge and skills developed through study and experience; 2) ways of thinking & practising: how experience and immersion in the field enables highly effective application of the knowledge & skills (including pattern recognition, approaches to problem-solving, and an automation of skills that exhibits as an effortless grace or ‘flow’); 3) professional learning and development, characterised as Deliberate Practice (Ericsson et al, 1993) or Progressive Problem-Solving (Bereiter & Scardamalia, 1993). This latter aspect is particularly important for distinguishing those with expertise from those who have just clocked up lots of experience. Practice doesn’t necessarily make perfect, it makes permanent. If you just repeat one thing in the same way, you’ll become very good at doing that thing in that particularly way, and it can be very difficult to change. Rather than mindless repetition, Deliberate Practice is continuously mindful of specific areas that aren’t working so well, it focuses on these and, drawing on feedback, improves them. This idea of professional learning and development as a key aspect of expertise, is summarised neatly in Perkins’ (2008) suggestion that expertise is a process of proactive competence.

Drawing on several years of reading, thinking, research interviews with National Teaching Fellows (NTFs), writing (e.g. King, 2019) workshops and presentations, an Expertise Symposium which attracted over 500 registrants from over 20 different countries, and a forthcoming edited volume arising from the symposium contributions (King, 2022), I have developed a model which takes those three generic characteristics of expertise and conceptualises them for teaching in higher education (King, 2020).

Characteristics of Expertise for Teaching in Higher Education

1) Pedagogical Content Knowledge (Shulman, 1986): this is the interaction of knowledge and skills from the subject area with those of pedagogy / learning and teaching. We need to know our subject area and how best to support students to learn. Pedagogy is usually the main focus of development programmes for staff new to teaching in higher education, and we need to ensure that these programmes enable staff to make sense of the pedagogy within the context of their particular subject or profession.

2) Artistry of Teaching (Schön, 1982; Eisner, 2002). We might know what and how to teach, but teaching is rarely routine, highly effective application of our pedagogical content knowledge requires something else. As Schön says, “let us search, instead, for an epistemology of practice implicit in the artistic, intuitive processes which some practitioners bring to situations of uncertainty, instability, uniqueness and value conflict.” Teaching is not like being in a note perfect string quartet, playing in front of a quiet, respectful audience in a well-managed auditorium. It is much more like being part of a jazz band playing the tunes we know but improvising, riffing off each other and the audience in a late night bar.

So the Artistry of Teaching includes those often intangible characteristics that we can recognise in teachers with expertise that are not exhibited in experienced non-experts. It is reflection-in-action, intuition, improvisation and performance, authenticity, rapport, care for students and their learning, and a curiosity about their learning experience and how it might be improved. There is also an element of humility in expertise, it is recognised that expertise is domain-specific and that we need to draw from others’ expertise to inform our practice.  These are the human aspects of expertise and often the ones most neglected when considering what support newer (and more experienced) teachers might need. Whilst they may emerge from experience, they can also be nurtured through mentoring and professional development.

The ways of thinking and practising of teachers in higher education has been little-researched and barely considered from an expertise perspective. What meaningful patterns do teachers with expertise perceive? What is their approach to problem-solving that is qualitatively different to that of novices? How is the automation of skills, the flow, developed and experienced by the teacher and their students?

3) Professional Learning and Development (King, 2019). In my experiences of helping people to articulate their professional development (for example in HEA Fellowship or NTF applications or simply their own professional development plans), there is a tendency to think about professional development as qualifications, training or other formal activities. This can be a barrier to engagement with professional development as we then feel that we don’t have the time to do it because it’s an additional activity on top of our actual teaching. In my research with 9 NTFs, their descriptions of how they developed their teaching were very much narratives of its enhancement over time. Only with prompting did they articulate how other activities (conferences, conversations with colleagues, literature, student feedback etc.) had informed that change. So I suggest that we should consider professional learning and development for teaching in higher education as a continual evolution of our teaching that is informed by evidence from a range of activities.

If excellence in higher education is mostly measured by outputs. Then this effectively ignores a critical feature that distinguishes those with expertise from those with experience: a commitment to professional learning. If higher education institutions are to achieve their missions of excellence in education, then they must also foster and enable a culture of professional learning for teaching that is integrated into everyday practice rather than being seen as an add-on that nobody has time for.

Whither expertise?

‘Expertise’ as an alternative or complement to ‘excellence’ might not sit well with everyone. The concept of ‘expert’ can be contentious. But by offering an alternative idea to excellence, I hope to provoke a more meaningful discourse about the characteristics of high quality teaching and how we might best support, develop, recognise and reward these within higher education.

Additional Information

For more information and a developing set of resources on expertise, visit my website at https://www.drhelenking.com


Bereiter, C. & M. Scardamalia (1993) Surpassing ourselves: an enquiry into the nature and implications of expertise. Open Court, Illinois

Eisner, E.W. (2002) From episteme to phronesis to artistry in the study and improvement of teaching. Teaching and Teacher Education, 18, 375-385

Ericsson, K.A., R. Th. Krampe & C.Tesch-Romer (1993) The Role of Deliberate Practice in the Acquisition of Expert Performance. Psychological Review, Vol. 100(3), 363-406

King (2022)(Ed.) Developing the characteristics of expertise for teaching in higher education: practical ideas for professional learning. SEDA/Routledge

King, H. (2020) Future-ready Faculty: Developing the characteristics of expertise in teaching in higher education. Proceedings of the International Consortium for Educational Development conference, ICED2020

King, H. (2019) Continuing Professional Development: what do award-winning lecturers do? Educational Developments, 20.2, 1-4

Perkins, D. (2008) Beyond Understanding. In: R. Land, J.H.F.Meyer & J.Smith (Eds.) Threshold Concepts within the Disciplines. Sense Publishers, Rottersam

Schön, D. (1982) The Reflective Practitioner: how professionals think in action. Routledge, London

Shulman, L. S. (1986). Those who understand: Knowledge growth in teaching. Educational Researcher, Vo.15 No.2 4-31

Skovholt, T.M., M. Hanson, L. Jennings & T. Grier (2016) A Brief History of Expertise. In: Skovholt,T.M. &Jennings (Eds.) Master Therapists: Exploring Expertise in Therapy and Counseling, 10th Anniversary Edition. Oxford University Press.


Image of host Dr Helen King.

Dr Helen King NTF SFSEDA PFHEA is currently the Deputy Director of Academic Practice at the University of the West of England, Bristol, UK. Her career in educational development spans over two decades and has included leading roles in UK-wide learning and teaching enhancement projects and organisations, as an independent consultant collaborating with colleagues in the UK, USA and Australia, and institutional roles. She has broad interests across a range of learning, teaching and assessment themes but her particular passion is in supporting colleagues’ professional learning and development. Her current research is exploring the characteristics of expertise for teaching in higher education. She is proud to hold a Senior Fellowship of the Staff & Educational Development Association (SFSEDA), is a UK National Teaching Fellow (NTF), Principal Fellow of the Higher Education Academy (PFHEA), and Honorary Associate Professor at the University of Queensland. In her non-work time she thoroughly enjoys trail running and Bluegrass banjo playing (not necessarily at the same time) both of which feed into her research and educational development interests in various ways!


Q1. What works for you, educational expertise or excellence? Or something else?

Q2. From your perspective, what are the ways of thinking and practising that differentiate educators with expertise? Please share your thinking 

Q3. What top tips or resources do you have to help improve confidence in teaching and/or supporting learning?

Q4. In what ways is it helpful to consider CPD as an evidence- informed evolution of educational practice?

Q5. What steps can institutions take to engender a culture of professional learning and the development of expertise for all?

Q6. What else can we do with this concept of educational expertise? Where might it take us? What further research might we do?

The Wakelet can be found at: https://wke.lt/w/s/30Cgjm

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#LTHEchat 217: Symbiotic versus Parasitic Aggregation–Good Practice for Social Media

Led by: Dr Linnea Soler @DrLinneaSoler & Dr Nathalie Tasler @drntasler

Image from Pixaby by Gerhard G

There’s often a thin line between aggregation and theft. Sending readers to savor the work of others at the sites where they publish — that’s one thing. Excerpting or paraphrasing at length, so the original sources doesn’t get the traffic or the revenue, that’s something else.

Keller (2011)–former executive editor of The New York Times

Bear with us! This is a topic we only recently encountered. There is not much guidance besides resources for journalists. So, after explaining the terminology, and why this topic matters in terms of digital impact, we are walking you through four good practice steps that are suggested for journalism. We would like to hear about your own experience, viewpoints, and how we can collaboratively turn this into good practice guidelines for social media.

Aggregation, the Good, the Bad, the Ugly

Jonathan Bailey, states that “If you use or link to other content, you are probably an aggregator, at least in some capacity” (Bailey, 2010) and then follows with ‘we are all aggregators’ (Bailey, 2015).  But there are different approaches to aggregation and, depending on how transparent the attribution is, these can be classified either as parasitic or symbiotic. We believe that transparency (Silverman, 2014) and how attribution is carried out seem to underpin these critical differences.

“Ethical aggregators try to find ways to build upon and add value to the works of others while supporting the original creator” (Bailey, 2015) So symbiotic aggregation helps add exposure to the original author through transparent attribution, thereby facilitating reader access to the original material. It also, through careful aggregation (curation), helps the readers access interesting and topical information. In doing this, symbiotic aggregators are helping to expand the footfall and digital impact for both the original author and for themselves.  However, parasitic aggregation results when there is no clear attributions to the original content – this muddies the water and confuses the audience as to where the material originated. It also cuts the link of digital impact metrics for the original author and shunts this impact to the parasite (Bailey, 2015 & Silverman, 2014)

What makes this topic so professionally relevant to us (and very likely to you)?: No matter what path you are on in HE, impact and esteem measures become more relevant for career progressions. Consider the following example: you share your work and a screenshot is taken, including your name, and this is shared more widely, without tagging; this could be considered to be referenced sharing, technically. However, you do not get the statistics from any of the subsequent engagement with your screen-shotted resource. So, the person who shares your work this way, will benefit from any likes, comments, retweets, quoted tweets but these activities will not show in your analytics. Therefore, you are cut out of the impact circle of your own work. A similar scraping approach happens if someone re-creates your tweets and shares these without tagging you as an author.

The short version:

We sought guidance on ethical sharing using social media in HE and came across Bailey’s (2015) four criteria that characterise fair sharing of content (see below).

Attribution: Strong, clear and with a link. Attribution should be front and center and in a way that doesn’t confuse the reader or block search engines.

Limited Use: Take only what you need, Thumbnails, headlines, intro paragraphs, etc. are usually adequate. Facebook, Google and others have set down standards in this area.

Added Value: Simply aggregating a bunch of content from various sources isn’t particularly useful. Aggregators should add value to the content whether through editorial selection, algorithms, commentary or a combination thereof. They should provide something that can’t be gleaned by just reading from the source.

Right of Refusal: Finally, even if you do everything the best you can, some will still not want to be included. An ethical aggregator removes those that don’t want to be included, even if there is no legal obligation for them to do so. There are exceptions to this rule though, in particular with aggregators that merely links or creators simply trying to avoid criticism.

(Bailey, 2015)

The Longer Version:

As we engaged with these four characteristics of symbiotic aggregation, and developed examples of each as we tussled with understanding them.


This is not always as straightforward as you might think. One of the most common example of parasitic aggregation that we have seen the is sharing of content without transparent links to its owner. In a ‘parasitic share’ we would simply copy and paste the URL of the webpost. On the other hand, the same material can be shared symbiotically. We share below a simulated example good practice of symbiotic aggregation where you can clearly see both the original author’s Twitter handle and the link to their original web post. This approach ensures that, if the author has access to the analytics of the website, they will at least be able to benefit from this amplified impact from from our sharing.

Most websites already have an option to ‘share through [offer of various social media icons]’ to facilitate ethical use. As authors we usually link this to our own Twitter accounts. Sharing media through these icons has several advantages: It saves the symbiotic aggregator effort and time in trying to source the author’s name on Twitter because the author will be automatically tagged in the shared resource. Furthermore, everyone gets the analytics for impact, not only the person who aggregates, but also the original author(s). This also benefits the audience because it helps the readers to link directly with the original author.

What happens if the author has a private Twitter account or is not on Twitter? In this case tagging is not possible. But then, because author does not utilise this form of impact tracking, we think it should be okay to share material as long as due diligence is shown with respect to attributing ownership. What do you think?

Example Tweet

Added Value–Example

Adding value can be a difficult aspect that caused a bit of debate amongst us, so we are keen to hear your opinions. We could argue that aggregation in itself is already creating value as it places potentially valuable and interesting resources in one place, and thus saves the audience potentially a lot of time ploughing through resources themselves. From the authors’ points of view it can create value–if the rules of symbiotic sharing are adhered to so that this symbiotic sharing provides more exposure potentially support networking.

We started a list of added value for both the audience and authors, alike, based on @erikasmith very helpful symbiotic aggregation of HE podcasts.

  • Saves time
  • Categorises the podcasts,
  • Easy access,
  • It is curated for easy navigation to topical HE podcasts,
  • Shareable
  • amplifies impact of author’s work

The curator here also includes the link to the original Twitter conversation:

This sharing of the original twitter link enables the audience (and authors) to engage with (other) authors and collaborators if they are interested. This is an excellent example of how the curator practices transparency as well as fostering community building; almost every suggested podcast has several comments below from other HE Twitter users. thereby growing the network.

The following two examples were more challenging to get our heads around, and we tried to share how we made sense of them. We would love to hear from you, if this is something to be included into the use of social media in HE--if so, how so? Here are our thoughts: 

Limited Use–Example

If you are familiar with WordPress, the re-blogging function is a very good example of limited use and automatically does this for you ensuring that you “Take only what you need” and that the original author is credited. WordPress allows anyone to re-blog (share someone else’s blogpost on your own blog) a blogpost from another author. However, only the first portion of the original post is accessible on the ‘re-bloggers’ website and the reader, should the wish to engage more fully with the post, is automatically taken to the original article by WordPress.

Right to Refusal–Examples

For us this was one of the trickiest aspects to engage with. Since in most publicly shared content, there seems to be an assumption of permission implied. If we curate sources or use content (all done ethically), and the author wants content removed, we can do this. For this to function, the author must be informed (i.e. by us tagged them in our resource). But is this feasible in all circumstances?

An implied Right to Refusal could also be found by inspecting an inbuilt Twitter mechanism. Look at your Twitter contacts to see if they have a little black lock icon next to their profile. If so, this means that their Tweets are intended to be seen by a limited audience–usually the retweet button is inactive. So, as for the case described before in the Attribution Example, if someone takes a screenshot of a tweet and shares it, either with or without tagging the originator, this would break the limited use rule as the originator clearly wanted to keep the tweet restricted to a particular audience.

These are our thoughts so far. What are your experiences? Do these rules make sense? Is there other good practice more suitable for the use of social media in HE? Do you have any hints and tips you can share with us?


Thank you @cristinacost for sharing these two papers on strategic communication:

  1. Habermas on Strategic and Communicative Action on JSTOR
  2. Communicative versus Strategic Rationality: Habermas Theory of Communicative Action and the Social Brain https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3666968/

Thank you @chrissinerantzi for sharing the following resources

  1. Use of social media metrics in research evaluation ‘narrow’ https://www.timeshighereducation.com/news/use-social-media-metrics-research-evaluation-narrow via @timeshighered
  2. Carrigan, M., Jordan, K. Platforms and Institutions in the Post-Pandemic University: a Case Study of Social Media and the Impact Agenda. Postdigit Sci Educ (2021). https://doi.org/10.1007/s42438-021-00269-x

And thank you @FiDaisyG for sharing your explorations of commenalist drogons (seriously you need to look this up!) and providing us with a word for one of the main issues we wanted to explain: a symbiosis in which only one party benefits but not the other (although no harm is done to the other)=commenalism. And also for sharing about epiphytes Epiphytes | Ancient Tree Forum

Digital Scholarship

One of the best brief descriptions we have found online is from University of Washington Library services, and then of course we highly recommend Martin Wellers book The Digital Scholar

We also developed two infographics for you

the image  lists the downsides of parasitic, and upside of symbiotic aggregation as mentioned above
this one lists the downsides of parasitic, and upside of symbiotic aggregation as mentioned above
This is a graphic representation of the four characteristics of ethical aggregation discussed above
This one is a graphic representation of the four characteristics of ethical aggregation discussed above

Bailey, J. (2015) A Brief Guide to Ethical Aggregation – Plagiarism Today @plagiarismtoday

Bailey, J. (2010) Are Aggregators Really the Problem? Plagiarism Today (@plagiarismtoday)

Keller, B. (2011) Postscript: Aggregation Aggro The New York Times

Silverman, C. (2014) The best ways for publishers to build credibility through transparency American Press Institute

Additional reading

Foxton, W. (2013) Parasite journalism: is aggregation as bad as plagiarism? The New Statesman

Silverman, C. (2013) Chapter 4- Practice ethical curation and attribution American Press Institute

Hosts for this week’s LTHEchat:

Dr Linnea Soler

Dr Nathalie Tasler

3/12/2020 Glasgow University School of Chemistry for The Moon Dr Linnea Soler
Dr Nathalie Tasler

Dr Linnea Soler is a Senior Lecturer in Organic Chemistry (Learning, Teaching & Scholarship track) at the University of Glasgow, where SoTL (Scholarship of Teaching & Learning) plays an important role and underpins both her teaching practice and the development of L&T resources. She has both independent and collaborative SoTL projects, with colleagues in Chemistry and from Engineering, Life Sciences, Social Sciences, and the Arts.

Her interests include the creation of chemistry education resources, often in partnership with final year chemistry undergraduate project students, for use in HE and in secondary school environments. She firmly believes in power of fun and in and the power of technology to make learning more engaging, interactive, and powerful. The need to support student transition into HE and to help foster a sense of belonging is factored into resource design. Linnea is enthralled with Heritage Science chemistry and with the use of technology and creative multimedia approaches to enhance the learning, assessment, and feedback in chemistry labs as well as the need to create fresh new approaches to lab learning.   

Dr Nathalie Tasler* is a lecturer in Academic and Digital Development (ADD) at the University of Glasgow. Her background is Erziehungswissenschaften (Sciences of Education) and Doctorate in Education. She leads the University’s Scholarship of Teaching and Learning (SoTL) Network and has a strong background in Creative Learning and Teaching. Nathalie has been involved in various roles in the education sector for over 25 years, initially, in museums and culture education and, for the last 15 years, predominantly in Higher Education. 

Nathalie is the SoTL curator for the National Teaching Repository. She sits on the membership committee for the International SoTL Society. She is also a mentor for the ALT ELESIG scholar scheme. 
She is a founding editor for the open access SoTL journal “oSoTL” and also hosts SoTLcast, a podcast around all things SoTL (available on all major platforms including Spotify).
If you are interested in resources for and her thoughts on everything related to learning and teaching in higher education you can follow her blog here: Adventures in Academic Development – Faculty Development, Hochschuldidaktik, Play and Creativity in Higher Education, SoTL (acdevadventures.blog) . Nathalie also is a mentor organizing teams for the weekly community-driven twitterchat on themes related to Learning and Teaching in Higher Education #LTHEchat, to which you are invited to participate.More details about her work history are on LinkedIn and if you like poetry you can find some of her creative writing work here.


Q1 How do you make use of your social media analytics for your career development?

Q2  How is digital scholarship recognised in your institution?

Q3 Has your content been shared without informing (tagging) you? (This is what we call “parasitic aggregation”). How did you feel about it?

Q4 What is the benefit of symbiotic aggregation (attributing and tagging the original creator) for both the author and the aggregator?

Q5  Do you have any hints/tips to help us all become better symbiotic aggregators?

Q6 Should we adapt Bailey’s framework for use in academic practice on social media?

Wakelet: https://wke.lt/w/s/OrmTDQ

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#LTHEchat 216 Breaking boundaries: career progression and education focussed roles. Led by David Walker @drdjwalker and Susan Smith @SmithySusanA

Photo of two one way signs by Brendan Church on Unsplash

The UK HE sector continues to increase its reliance on teaching-focused roles with HESA data reporting 32% of overall academic staff employed on teaching-focused contracts in 2019/20 (HESA, 2021). However, in contrast to established teaching and research career paths, a common sector approach to promotion for those in what might more broadly be termed ‘education focused’ roles (encapsulating the diversity of nomenclature used across the sector) have not yet emerged, with considerable variation in practice identified across institutional role descriptors, promotion criteria and provision of developmental support.

A particular challenge noted is the requirement to demonstrate scholarship activity, a common feature of promotion criteria for those on education-focussed tracks (Smith & Walker, 2021). This challenge stems from the lack of a shared sectoral definition of scholarship and its outputs resulting in diverse interpretation and ongoing debate centred around differences between scholarship, the scholarship of teaching and learning (SoTL) and pedagogic research.

In this chat we invite colleagues to share their own experiences and practices from their own institutions, to help develop a shared understanding of what constitutes ‘scholarship’ and to consider practical steps that might be taken to aid those on these pathways in the planning and advancement of their own scholarship activity.


HESA. 2021b, January. Who’s Studying in HE? https://www.hesa.ac.uk/data-and-analysis/students/whos-in-he#provider.

Smith, S., & Walker, D. (2021). Scholarship and academic capitals: The boundaried nature of education-focused career tracks. Teaching in Higher Education, 0(0), 1–15. https://doi.org/10.1080/13562517.2021.1965570


Image of host Dr David Walker

Dr David Walker PFHEA @drdjwalker (Associate Pro Vice-Chancellor, Education & Students – University of Brighton). David is the Associate PVC (Education & Students at the University of Brighton where he has strategic leadership for the development and implementation of policy and practice to ensure learning and teaching excellence, facilitating positive outcomes for students, and ensuring the delivery of outstanding support to academic staff across the university to advance learning and teaching excellence and innovation. David is a senior leader in digital education, a Principal Fellow of the Higher Education Academy, Editor of the Journal of Perspectives in Applied Academic Practice (JPAAP), a member of the SEDA Conference and Events Committee and an external examiner/advisor for several leading UK HEIs.

Image of host Dr Sandra Smith

Dr Susan Smith PFHEA @SmithySusanA (Associate Dean, Education & Students – University of Sussex Business School). Susan leads the education portfolio at the University of Sussex Business School. She is a Principal Fellow of Advance HE, trustee of UK Advising and Tutoring (UK AT), member of the ICAEW Academic and Education Community Advisory Board, and member of the Future Talent Council Curriculum Innovation Advisory Board.

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