#LTHEChat 202: Integrating flexible assessment for inclusion

Today’s Host

This image is a portait shot of Theresa smiling into the camera

Dr. D. Theresa Nicholson is a Reader (Higher Education and Pedagogy) in the Department of Natural Sciences at Manchester Metropolitan University, and is an AdvanceHE National Teaching Fellow (2020) and HEA Principal Fellow. Theresa is best known for her passionate advocacy of inclusive learning and teaching and for driving forward the HE agenda around equality, diversity and inclusion. Theresa has pioneered many curriculum innovations and her signature pedagogy is characterised by student-centred, active, authentic learning that builds-in flexible assessment, aligning learning with students’ aspirations, motivations and interests. Theresa has published on aspects of creativity and peer learning in assessment; student engagement and belonging; technology-enhanced learning; inclusive student partnership; and support for d/Deaf and disabled students. She is currently researching synergies between enquiry-based learning and global citizenship, and their potential for supporting diversity awareness and enhancing graduate outcomes. d.nicholson@mmu.ac.uk

The role of flexible assessment

Increasing societal demand for graduates with authentic, career-relevant skills and knowledge requires that learners are placed at the centre of a more personalised Higher Education experience. While much has been written about flexibility in learning and teaching and flexible pedagogies (e.g. Ryan and Tilbury 2013), flexible assessment is often neglected. When assessment is regarded more as a means for learning (Keamy et al. 2007) and students are given opportunities for self-direction around assessment, the potential benefits are many. They include effective learning (Jackson 1997), deep learning (Gibbs 1992), motivation and engagement (Pacharn et al. 2013), creativity (Nicholson 2018), autonomy (Ryan and Deci 2000) and inclusion (Marriott and Lau 2008, Race 2001, Brown 2005).

What is flexible assessment?

At its most basic, flexible assessment can simply mean providing greater diversity in the methods, tasks and modes of delivery (Hyde et al. 2004). It may mean giving students some self-direction over the ‘mechanics’ of the assessment strategy – assignment weightings, workload, calculation of final grade, and timing, for instance (e.g. Pacharn et al. 2013, Rideout 2018, Marriott and Lau 2008, Cook 2001). But flexible assessment has the most positive impact on inclusion when there is student choice in the nature of assessment tasks, the format of work submitted, and the curriculum content. There are many approaches for integrating flexible assessment, but a strategy I use to good effect is the ‘portfolio of evidence’. In this, students compile evidence addressing a range of topics and presented in different formats, to demonstrate their achievement of the module learning outcomes. The portfolio is accompanied by an over-arching commentary on the evidence provided, setting it into the appropriate conceptual framework.

Challenges and concerns

Why isn’t flexible assessment employed more commonly? This is a reasonable question to pose. There may be constraints, perceived at least, around the capacity of administrative systems to handle flexibility. There are also valid concerns about equivalence and reliability in flexible assessment (Wood and Smith 1999), ensuring fairness and equity between students, implications for marking workload (Wanner and Palmer 2015), and the potential impact on power relationships between lecturers and students (Morgan and Bird 2007).


Nevertheless, the role of assessment is so great – in students’ motivation, study time, graduate outcomes, and curriculum design – that it must be engaging, relevant, authentic and intrinsically interesting. In this #LTHEChat it would be good to explore the benefits and challenges of flexible assessment, and in particular to consider its role in the delivery of an inclusive learner experience. It would be good if we could capture some effective examples of flexible assessment and identify solutions to any barriers to its use.


Brown, S. (2005). Assessment for learning. Learning And Teaching In Higher Education (1), 81-89.

Cook, A. (2001). Assessing the Use of Flexible Assessment. Assessment And Evaluation In Higher Education 26(6), 539-549. https://srhe.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/02602930120093878

Gibbs, G. (1992). Improving The Quality Of Student Learning (Bristol, Technical and Educational Services).

Hyde, P., Clayton, B., and Booth, R. (2004). Exploring Assessment In Flexible Delivery Of Vocational Education And Training Programs. National Centre for Vocational Education Research. Adelaide.

Jackson, M. (1997). But learners learn more. Higher Education Research and Development 16(1),  101–109.

Keamy, R. L., Nicholas, H. R., Mahar, S. and Herrick, C. (2007). Personalising Education: From Research To Policy And Practice.

Marriott, P. and Lau, A. (2008). The use of on-line summative assessment in an undergraduate financial accounting course. Journal Of Accounting Education 26, 73–90.

Morgan, C. and Bird, J. (2007). Flexible assessment: some tensions and solutions. In: B. Khan (Ed.). Flexible Learning In An Information Society. Information Science Publishing, Hershey, 247-259.

Nicholson, D. T. (2018). Enhancing student engagement through online portfolio assessment. Practitioner Research in Higher Education 11(1), 15-31.

Pacharn, P., Bay, D. and Felton, S. (2013). The impact of a flexible assessment system on students’ motivation, performance and attitude. Accounting Education 22(2), 147-167.


Race, P. (2001). A Briefing On Self, Peer And Group Assessment. LTSN Generic Centre Assessment Guides Series.

Rideout, C. A. (2018). Students’ choices and achievement in large undergraduate classes using a novel flexible assessment approach. Assessment and Evaluation in Higher Education 43(1), 68-78.


Ryan, R. M. and Deci, E. L. (2000) Self-determination theory and the facilitation of intrinsic motivation, social development, and well-being, American Psychologist 55(1), 68–78.

Ryan, A. and Tilbury, D. (2013). Flexible Pedagogies: New Pedagogical Ideas. Higher Education Academy, London. Online at: https://www.heacademy.ac.uk/sites/default/files/resources/npi_report.pdf

Wanner, T. and Palmer, E. (2015). Personalising learning: Exploring student and teacher perceptions about flexible learning and assessment in a flipped university course. Computers and Education 88, 54-369.

Wood, L. N. and Smith, G. H. (1999). Flexible assessment. In: The Challenge Of Diversity, 2nd Symposium on Undergraduate Mathematics, Queensland Australia, November 1999. Online at: http://www.deltaconference.org/conferences/1999/Papers/wood_s.pdf

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Put your feet up and meet your newest organising team..

Professor Natascha Radclyffe-Thomas – British School of Fashion, GCU London

Professor Natascha Radclyffe-Thomas EdD FRSA is Professor in Marketing and Sustainable Business at the British School of FashionGCU London where she runs the innovative postgraduate Module in Sustainable Luxury for the School’s MBA Luxury Brand Management programme. Natascha is a National Teaching Fellow, Vice Chair ofPRME UK&I Chapter and Vice Chair of The Costume Society. Natascha is co-author of Fashion Management: A Strategic Approach and Editor-in-Chief for Bloomsbury Fashion Business Cases, a digital resource helping students develop essential fashion industry business skills. Natascha’s cross-disciplinary research spans creative industries practice; sustainable fashion; social enterprise and responsible business; cultural heritage, consumer behaviour and international fashion marketing. She is an advocate for globally responsible education and won the Case Centre 2020 Award for Ethics and Social Responsibility and was Highly Commended in the 2020 Women in Marketing Awards Marketing Scientist category recognising her leadership in teaching and research in marketing education. Natascha is a knitter, stitcher and passionate make-do-and-mender!

Dr Linnea Soler – School of Chemistry, University of Glasgow

In my role as a Lecturer in Chemistry (Learning, Teaching & Scholarship track), SoTL plays an important role and underpins both my teaching practice and development of L&T resources. I have discovered that the skill- and knowledge-base, developed through my years of training as a scientist, often differs to those needed for scholarship (where social science based skills may be more applicable). Therefore, I am in the process of learning new skills and developing a grounding in SoTL and I am striving to marry these with my pre-existing research skill-set, grounded in the approach taken by the hard sciences.  This transition is challenging, as it requires a re-wire of my brain, but also very rewarding because it opens up new horizons. In addition to collaborations with my Chemistry colleagues, I am also fortunate to undertake cross-disciplinary SoTL projects with colleagues from Engineering, Archaeology and the Arts.  I enjoy sharing experiences with other academics regarding their SoTL experiences, especially those within the “hard sciences”, who face similar challenges in becoming Scholars. I feel that we can all learn from each other and help each other on this, sometimes frustrating but always exciting, path.

My interests include the creation of novel chemistry education resources, in partnership with my final year chemistry undergraduate project students, for use in HE and in secondary school environments. I am a firm believer in harnessing the power of fun (gamification) and the power of technology to make learning more engaging, interactive and powerful. I am keen to support student transition into HE and to help foster a sense of belonging. I am currently enthralled with the chemistry found within Heritage Science and I continue to work on enhancing the learning, assessment and feedback in chemistry labs using multimedia approaches.

Dr Smita Odedra – School of Chemistry, University of Glasgow

Smita has been investigating the provision of training and support given to GTAs in the School of Chemistry, using a student partnership approach to involve postgraduates and undergraduates in decision-making. She has presented this work at several conferences and has contributed to international discussions on the changing role of the GTA in the pivot to online teaching. Interests include active learning approaches, use of technology to support student learning and well-being, and imbedding good-practice to enhance inclusivity in lab environments.

Team Mentor: Dr Nathalie Tasler– Academic and Digital Development, University of Glasgow

I am delighted to support this term’s amazing LTHEchat organising team! And look forward to participating in all the exciting topics over the next couple of months.

I am a lecturer in academic and digital development. My background is Erziehungswissenschaften (Sciences of Education). My current focus is the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning (SoTL). I have a strong background in Creative Learning and Teaching and Culture Education. I am founding editor for oSoTL journal, run the UofGSoTL network and am the SoTL curator for the National Teaching Repository.

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LTHEchat 200: Closing the feedback loop

Image by Danielle Hinton

Dear #LTHEchat colleagues and friends,

We would like to thank you for participating in the #LTHEchat 200 on the 17th of March 2021 and further individuals who completed the mini survey we shared during the event. 

This chat was really useful for us to gain some insights into the experience of all those participating in different ways. We invited responses to the following:

Task (T) Share a picture of an object, model, drawing, collage etc. with a caption that shows what the #LTHEchat means to you. Have you prepared this?

Q1 What motivates you to participate in the #lthechat and/or follow the hashtag? In what way Is  the Wakelet curation of tweets after the chat useful?

Q2 follows… What impact, if any, does the #lthechat have on your own professional development?

Q3 Is the #lthechat impacting on your practice? Briefly explain.

Q4 About the organisation and running of the #lthechat conversations. How does the rotating teams and mentors approach work for the community?

Q5 The organisation and running of #lthechat is supported by a rotating team and mentor approach. Does this work well for the community?

Q6 Ideas, ideas, ideas! Please share one thing you would either change or add to the #lthechat.

Q7 How about closing the #LTHEchat down this summer and forever? Share a word/image/gif to respond. 

Plus question shower, ask and respond to any question by participants. 

There were 966 tweets in total during this chat contributed by 129 individuals. We also received eight responses to our survey. 

The following were created: 

•    Martin Hawksey TAGS created and shared by Sarah Honeychurch based on the #LTHEchat 200 https://hawksey.info/tagsexplorer/?key=15OqDTKhscDJo8ZGggQmxYiCYQeJ-mOFNdjOzZB3tQ_o&gid=400689247

•    Wakelet #LTHEchat 200 https://wakelet.com/wake/9CHn85b1mis26Fau7_-6X?s=03

After participating in the chat and reading carefully all responses, we can see that the #LTHEchat has been a valuable professional development initiative for the vast majority of individuals participating. There are some critical voices which should not be ignored and we are exploring options. 

Overall, there doesn’t seem to be an appetite to stop the chat as the contributions during this chat show. Perhaps some of the interventions introduced during the last few years have helped keep the chat fresh, current and renew its energy. Many mention the people participating in the chat and the warmth of the conversations that are often diverse and challenge their own perceptions and viewpoints which is seen as valuable. Also some noted that the chat brings together diverse voices and everybody is heard regardless of their professional status or position. Some colleagues suggest that we can diversify even further and involve more students and industry but also consider taking some of the topics explored further and disseminating via an event and related publications. All good ideas and we are grateful for your thoughts.

The rotating organising teams, mentor support as well as the openness to collaborate with other organisations such as AdvanceHE and ALT for example, seem to have increased commitment, participation and have helped transform this initiative into a community for many. This whole initiative is based on volunteers giving their time to organise and facilitate the chats, for which we are very grateful. 

The visualisations shared (34 in total) as part of the task linked to what the #LTHEchat means to participants are currently being analysed to gain more specific insight into this aspect of the chat.

Going forward, we are considering the following for the #LTHEchat:

Organising teams and mentors: Move from three teams to two or one during each academic year and one mentor to provide a longer time frame for the team to familiarise themselves with the organisational side, shape the programme, related activities and outputs. 

Dissemination: Explore the possibility for organising an annual social event (combined with a streamlined approach linked to organising teams and mentors) and create opportunities for a special issue on what was explored during the year, edited and authored by #LTHEchat participants and further individuals. We are in conversation with an open access journal for this.

Diversify participation further: Identify opportunities to further develop links to student communities and industry to engage in the chat as participants, guests, organising team members and mentors.

Diversity and timing: Predominantly individuals from the United Kingdom engage on a regular basis in the chat. There is an opportunity to further diversity participation further through perhaps considering alternative or rotating timing of the chat, slow(er) or stretchy chats and consider chats in different languages also, something that has been trialled in the past and seemed to work.

Evaluation: Building evaluation into the programme, through reflective inquiry starting from 21/22. Please note, we will also make all data collected available as open data for anybody to  interrogate from different angles and share back findings with the community. 

Please respond to this post if you would like to comment on any aspect of the above.

Thank you all for your valuable thoughts and insights.

Chrissi (Nerantzi) and Sue (Beckingham)

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#LTHEChat 201 Enabling staff and students to thrive in large-scale pedagogic transformation in Higher Education

Enabling staff and students to thrive in large-scale pedagogic transformation in #HigherEd with guest host Professor Ale Armellini @alejandroa 

This #LTHEChat will address participants’ experiences of institutional change in universities, with a focus on pedagogic transformation. Whatever your role, you will be invited to reflect and share ideas on whether and how positive change can happen in universities, how buy-in can be generated and how we can assess impact on students. Barriers and blockages, with their rationale, will also be part of the conversation, as will the role of staff development, among other key topics. The post-Covid pedagogic future in HE will also be discussed. Join us on 24 March at 8pm GMT for another lively #LTHEChat.

Background reading

Armellini, A., Teixeira Antunes, V. & Howe, R. (2021). Student perspectives on learning experiences in a Higher Education active blended learning context. Techtrends. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11528-021-00593-w 

Lomer, S. & Palmer, E. (2021): ‘I didn’t know this was actually stuff that could help us, with actually learning’: student perceptions of Active Blended Learning. Teaching in Higher Education. https://doi.org/10.1080/13562517.2020.1852202 

Teixeira Antunes, V., Armellini, A. & Howe, R. (2021). Beliefs and engagement in an institution-wide pedagogic shift. Teaching in Higher Education. https://doi.org/10.1080/13562517.2021.1881773


Ale Armellini

Alejandro (Ale) Armellini is Professor and Dean of Digital and Distributed Learning at the University of Portsmouth. His key role is to provide leadership in digital learning and teaching and learning innovation across all faculties and services. His portfolio covers the development, implementation and evaluation of Portsmouth’s Digital Success Plan, which will form part of the university’s Learning and Teaching Plan. In addition, Ale is responsible for leading and managing the university’s partnership with CEG Digital for the collaborative provision of distance learning programmes through Portsmouth Online.

Ale is a Principal Fellow of the Higher Education Academy and Fellow of the Royal Society for the Encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce. Ale’s research and doctoral supervision focus on learning innovation, online pedagogy, course design in online environments, institutional capacity building and open practices. He holds visiting professorships at several UK and overseas universities.

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Celebrating 200 #LTHEchats later

Celebrating shared ideas

Image source: https://pixabay.com/photos/sparkler-light-bulb-injection-candle-4629347/
Free for use. No attribution required.

Wow, how time flies. The #LTHEchat started as an unfunded experiment and pilot back in 2014. The plan was to trial this for 3 months.

We never stopped since. The community embraced the chat from the very beginning and this has helped hugely to be sustained until now. Thousands of staff and students from around the UK and further afield engage regularly in the weekly #LTHEchats.The rotating organising teams and mentors have helped enormously as well as all colleagues and students who have offered to share their work generously with the wider community nationally and internationally. 

We have had many opportunities to work with other initiatives and organisations such as our sustained collaboration with Advance HE and ALT for example and we are grateful for these. 

We thank you all!

Fast forward to 2021, a year like no other… 

It is about time to reflect together on the #LTHEchat and inform an evaluation that will help us think about the value the chat has had for those who participated in a range of ways but also its future.  

We would like to do collect data during the 200th #LTHEchat with you all and there will be an opportunity to also express your views anonymously. Chrissi and Sue will be participants and researchers in this inquiry as they interested in gaining insights into the #LTHEchat community and related experiences. 

Ok, here is a task for you in preparation for this chat. 

Please consider preparing a picture of an object, model, drawing, collage etc. with a caption that shows what the #LTHEchat means to you. You will be able to share this during the chat. We can’t wait to see your creations!

There is also an opportunity to complete a survey if you would like to provide your comments and thoughts anonymously.

All data collected for this evaluation will be made available as open data. We will encourage others to interrogate the data if this is of interest to them. Dr Javiera Atenas (@jatenas), an expert in open data will be consulted further on this. 

Dr Laura Pasquini (@laurapasquini) who has expertise in the area of researching tweetchats and communities of practice like the #LTHEchat, also kindly offered to support us.

See you all on the 17th of March at 8pm!

Chrissi and Sue

Martin Hawksey TAGS created and shared by Sarah Honeychurch based on the #LTHEchat 200

Wakelet #LTHEchat 200 https://wakelet.com/wake/9CHn85b1mis26Fau7_-6X?s=03

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#LTHEChat 199 The Authenticity of Digital Assessment

When the country first went into lockdown last March, academics, administrators and senior leaders everywhere had to scramble to move their teaching online. Levels of support differed from institution to institution based perhaps on their existing resources and experience of online teaching. What is clear however, is that everyone did and continues to do all they can to ensure that their students are being taught the programmes they are on. I still remember the lockdown announcement. Though it came with an impending sense of doom, there was also a feeling of it being a short term measure required to alleviate a worsening situation but that with compliance would come a normal summer and a chance to be back face to face. Within a very short period of time, it became clear that we would be in this for some time.

What then would happen to assessments? The solution for many was to move their assessments online and make them open book. It wasn’t perfect, but realistic. Assessments are carefully designed by faculty to test knowledge, application, synthesis of facts and theory, so hastily having to change the way they were run had unintended consequences. Not everyone was able to change to open book assessments. There are exams regulated by professional, statutory and regulatory bodies (PSRBs) where institutions are not free to re-design or alter assessments. Here, the solution was to proctor online which was not without controversy.

As we enter what is hopefully a period where we move towards normality and a return to face-to-face teaching and assessment, what have we learned from being online? Sure, there are challenges but there’s also been an opportunity to use digital tools either for the first time or in a different way to pre-pandemic.

Specifically for assessment, the move to digital has either reawakened projects to implement digital assessment or kickstarted conversations that languished in the ‘nice to have but not today’ pile. With careful consideration and planning, rather than emergency implementation, digital assessment can become part of the suite of methods used by institutions to enhance the way that students demonstrate their learning. Using a computer opens possibilities for assessing that don’t exist on paper. Moreover, it allows students to demonstrate their learning in a way akin to what they will do when they graduate. There are few instances in life of being asked to sit in silence with a pen and paper. That’s been true for some time. I graduated in 2000 and was called to the Bar in 2002. I didn’t write a single opinion on paper.

It’s not without challenges though; academic, logistical and ‘hearts and minds’. There’s a difference between digitising an exam paper and rethinking your assessment. Logistically, years of process based on moving pieces of paper needs to be rethought to be just as efficient if not more. Finally hearts and minds need to be won for people to put down their red, green and blue pens when marking, for well known processes to change, for digital literacy to be address for both students and faculty. For then, the benefits of digital assessment can be seen by all.

Ishan Kolhatkar is General Manager of Inspera UK.  Prior to joining Inspera he implemented the platform across an entire University, eliminating pen and paper exams.  Ishan was a practising Barrister for almost a decade before moving into Education, first as a Lecturer on the Bar Exams, then he became Deputy Dean of Learning and Teaching and finally Director of Group Education before moving to Inspera.  He therefore has first hand knowledge of what faculty, administrators and senior leaders want from digital assessment, along with the digital transformation and change management required to make it happen.  Away from work he’s a keen amateur chef, posting pictures and videos of his food online.

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#LTHEchat198 Blending technologies in online sessions to engage students with Louise Robson @louisescicomm

Having spent many years teaching my students in a physical classroom space, the last 12 months have certainly been very strange.  Almost all of my teaching has been online, with classes delivered using online class platforms.  These have been great to use in the absence of being able to be in attendance, but they come with some real challenges in terms of engaging and interacting with students.  At the same time, student – student interactions have also been hit, with regulations preventing the normal social interactions students take part in, before, during and after class. 

However, has it all been bad?  There are some significant advantages to online teaching.  For example, a more flexible timetable for students, allowing them to balance other work and activities against their studies.  A greater use of breakout rooms to encourage student – student interactions, with groupings much more mixed than if we asked them to go into groups in attendance.  We have recognised the value of providing asynchronous lecture captures, and that “face to face” teaching (whether online or in attendance) doesn’t have to be a one way flow of information, but can be an interactive teaching activity that adds real value to student learning. This active approach has the potential to get students thinking critically about what they do (and do not) understand, and allows instantaneous delivery of feedback and support.  

Of course, there are also the challenges.  No more “reading the room”, i.e. seeing what students have got (or not) from their body language.  They cannot see you (well only a part of you), and therefore they miss your body language too.  The social side of class is a struggle, as the students may feel disconnected to you as a teacher, and each other, as everyone is in a different physical space.  Students may not have the skillset to know how to use asynchronous resources such as lecture captures appropriately, and we might struggle to realise that they need support (particularly our first year students who are transitioning from a disrupted school year into their university studies, a transition that is hard even in a normal year).  

20/21 is an academic year like no other, and it is time to start and reflect on what we have achieved.  If we identify the things that worked, and what did not, there is the potential for us to harness all the amazing strategies and activities we have discovered teaching online, and embed these activities into the new normal of next academic year!

Louise Robson is an award winning senior university teacher in Biomedical Science at the University of Sheffield, with over 25 years’ experience in learning and teaching.  She is known for her championing of the use of digital technologies, particularly lecture capture, and was the institutional lead for implementation of lecture capture at Sheffield.  She is a firm believer in the value of active and interactive teaching approaches for enhancing student learning, and has supported colleagues across the sector in using these approaches online during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

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#LTHEChat197 ‘The changing shape of arts education in a digitally focused environment’ with host Amy Sampson @amysampsonuk

“We are born makers. We move what we are learning from our heads, to our hearts, through our hands.” – Brene Brown

Let me take you on a pre-pandemic walk through a certain kind of campus. To the right you’ll find a building packed with performance spaces for dance, acting and music. Sprung floors and sound proofed studios, the buzz of group rehearsals and an occasional burst of guitar echoing down the corridor. To your left an abundance of individual studio spaces, the murmur of students concentrating on pieces of work, seeking critique from their peers. Just over the hill, an open plan area with specialist equipment designed for makers; looms, milling machines and 3D printers, creative projects in different stages of completion and the fizz of ideas coming to life in tangible form. You get the idea… flash forward to 2020 and you’ll see a very different kind of campus. 

Spaces have been used in accordance with social distancing, but students are largely having to adapt to courses delivered in a method that sometimes appears at odds with the subject they are studying. Staff too are having to make the same changes, taking in depth previously very tactile sessions and translating them into a mode centred on blended delivery. Providing feedback and critique on work that can’t currently be experienced in person. Diversifying delivery and assessment while maintaining authenticity of the subject area is often a tricky line to walk. 

Is what we’re experiencing now a hint of the shape of things to come? The move to more online delivery has provided opportunities as well as challenges, and as many institutions look to increase their fully online provision what does this mean for practice based subjects? With arts funding regularly in the news what lessons can we learn from our experiences to help secure arts education for the future? 

Is creative education falling behind article – Creative Review

Join us on Wednesday 18th February when we can come together and discuss ideas and experiences of arts based education further.

If you missed the Tweetchat on the 18th, you can catch up with everything discussed on the Wakelet.

Amy Sampson

Amy Sampson is Head of Digital Learning at Falmouth University. She is passionate about creative arts education and has a wealth of experience spanning technical implementation, content production and online course development. Amy has helped shape Falmouth’s blended and fully online learning provision and enjoys the opportunities and challenges presented when practice based education and technology intersect. Amy holds an MA in Creative Education, fellowship of the HEA and is a member of the Association for Learning Technology (ALT).

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#LTHEChat196 ‘Love is in the air-cademy’ with hosts Rachelle O’Brien @rachelleeobrien, Steve Rowett @srowett and Sarah Wright @Sarah__wright1

“You do care a little for me, I know… but nothing to speak of, and you don’t love me.”
E. M. Forster

These words, from E.M. Forster’s classic novel Maurice were only published after Forster’s death, in accordance with his wishes. They demonstrate the complexity of human love and, for some, its taboo nature. But maybe they also echo the relationships we sometimes have with our own institutions.

For this week’s #LTHEchat however, love abounds.

Through six simple questions we are going to create institutions that we truly love being a part of.

In this weeks chat we hope to see your imaginative ideas as you combine text with media. We’ll be inviting you to be creative in answering these questions. Share pictures, gifs, songs, dances – whatever comes to mind to represent your answers. We’d love to see you there.

Missed this chat or want to relive the excitement? Catch up by viewing the Wakelet.

Rachelle O’Brien is a Senior Digital Learning Designer at Durham Centre for Academic Development at Durham University. Rachelle has worked in education for 10 years and has particular interests in digital education, play and games. Recently, this interest has led her to develop and deliver multiple Escape Rooms for use in education across the sector. She has also written a paper relating to the use of Escape Rooms for Teaching Technology which can be accessed here https://openjournals.ljmu.ac.uk/index.php/JSML/article/view/395. She is a recent graduate of the MSc in Digital Education from University of Edinburgh, is a Certified member of the Association for Learning Technologists and is a Fellow of the HEA.

Steve Rowett is the manager of the Digital Education Futures team at UCL. This role involves horizon scanning and evaluation of new technologies for supporting education at UCL, in partnership with students and staff. He has also been heavily involved in the institution’s COVID-19 response, particularly in supporting teaching staff who are newly teaching from home.

Sarah Wright is a Faculty Senior SOLSTICE Fellowship Lead. Her role has seen her develop projects on the use of social media and online teaching, as well as lecture engagement and seminar design.  Sarah is an Apple Distinguished Educator, has written for the Times Educational Supplement,  contributing on a range of educational issues and sat on the Board of Management for NAACE, the national association for educational technology. Last year, she co-chaired the National Conference for Social Media in Higher Education and is now proud to sit on the editorial board for the journal.  Sarah is a Fellow of the Chartered College of Teaching where she also enjoys reviewing for ‘Impact’ journal.  Sarah was shortlisted for the Guardian Excellence in Teaching award in 2019 and the Educate North award in the same category.  She was proud to win the Student Led Staff Award for Outstanding Contribution to Teaching.

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#LTHEChat195 ‘Appreciating the centrality of relationships to university learning; how should that inform our next steps?’ with hosts Sarah Dyer @se_dyer and Lisa Harris @lisaharris

Early on in the pandemic there was a tweet doing the rounds which seemed to sum it up nicely “You’re not ‘working from home’. You are home during a crisis trying to work.” Indeed, we have been trying to manage new ways of working – and teaching – as well as take care of ourselves, our families, communities, and students. It can feel as if we have all been part of a huge nightmare-ish change management experiment. As well as recognising how difficult it has been, we can also see the positives that have emerged – how decisions that would take years to go through university committees have been taken quickly; that some students are benefiting from increased flexibility and accessibility; how conferences and seminars are newly accessible (with a hugely reduced carbon footprint). Whilst the pandemic has certainly not gone away, the need for intense crisis management has subsided. And in this context universities are clearly turning their attention to writing their next strategy documents, with the aim of creating new drivers of, and direction for, change.

With this in mind, we are asking you, the #LTHE community, to turn your attention to relationships. It feels important that we make visible how central relationships and communities are to us as educators and think through what we need from university strategies, and new ways of working, to support these. In learning from the previous 12 months; building on what has worked well (and avoid sliding back into old routines); and planning for the near future, understanding and appreciating relationships needs to be central. 

Students have faced huge challenges over the last year. These cannot be reduced to pedagogy, but the deficit framing of online learning circulating has been cartoonish and has helped no one. We know, not least from previous LTHE chats, the expertise and creativity with which educators have supported students and their learning. We have challenged elsewhere the common view that online learning is distant and remote without the possibility of the learning community and student/educator relationship needed for learning (Dyer and Harris 2020). Understanding how students are experiencing online learning communities and how best to support them to build such communities online, and in hybrid spaces, is central to evaluating and planning for next year.

It is equally true that online is new to many educators who have been experiencing the vulnerability (and exhaustion) that learning something new can entail. Recognising and attending to these experiences is equally important in moving forward productively. We have seen exciting examples of university leadership which emphasises care and compassion. For example, Dilly Fung reminded us in a tweet that teaching is a relationship, not performance. She has also  tweeted recently that our primary goal is to keep ourselves and our loved ones ‘safe and well’ and then to do our best to support each other. This follows Simone Buitendijk’s blogs which have included a call to recognise that it is ok that we can’t fix everything as well as the need for compassion to be central to universities. (It hasn’t escaped our notice that these were communicated online.) We ourselves have valued the opportunities we have had as educators this year, to meet people from across the world by attending seminars we never would have got to in person. We have personally benefited too from new ways of working, such as online synchronous writing (Dyer and Harris 2020).

We will be using our #LTHEchat to discuss opportunities and hopes for building relationships for learning (for students, with students, and with colleagues) using the affordances of online, hybrid, and in person. We will be using an Appreciative Inquiry (AI) framework. This asks us about what is working and what is good first (discover) before exploring what we hope for (dream). We then move to asking about what it looks like in practice (design) and how we can make that work (deliver). We have found that AI is a really productive and enjoyable way of structuring conversations (Dyer 2014) and we hope that you are able to take part and find it so too.

You can view the Wakelet for this chat.

Sarah Dyer and Lisa Harris

Sarah Dyer is Professor of Higher Education at the University of Exeter. She is a human geographer with research interests in education, work, and gender and the inaugural director of the Exeter Education Incubator. Her work investigates how Higher Education can better create transformative learning, both for its students and within it own structures and relationships.

Lisa Harris is Director of Digital Learning at the University of Exeter. She is a Fellow of the Exeter Education Incubator. Lisa has led the development and implementation of innovative degree programmes in three UK Universities, utilising cross-faculty expertise supported by industry projects and online learning pedagogies.


Buitendijk, S. (2020) COVID: we can’t fix everything, and that should be OK | by Simone Buitendijk | University of Leeds | Medium 

Buitendijk, S. (2020) Compassion can change the world | by Simone Buitendijk | University of Leeds (medium.com)

Dyer (2014) Appreciate HEA

Dyer and Harris (2020) Let’s take the remote out of online learning | Wonkhe

Dyer and Harris (2020 Developing Inclusive Learning Environments Online – Dartington Online Writing Retreat Blogs #1 (wordpress.com) 

Ethics in Bricks (2020) Tweet https://twitter.com/EthicsInBricks/status/1315623182406242304?s=20

Fung, D (2020) https://twitter.com/DevonDilly/status/1354339167770181640?s=20

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