Sharing Experiences: guest post from the University of Iceland

The staff of The Centre for Teaching and Learning at the University of Iceland visited Glasgow Caledonian University on the 2nd of June. Our main interests were blended learning and using social media in Academic teaching.

Our hosts Sheila MacNeill and James Emery made us feel very welcome and Sheila was kind enough to meet us at our hotel and walk with us to the campus. The sun was shining and Glasgow greeted us in all its grandiose.

At the campus we sat down and discussed all kinds of blended learning. Alison Nimmo and Sam Ellis joined us and told us about their experience in designing and teaching PGcert online. It was interesting to hear how they approached and solved various technical tasks.

After the presentation Sheila and James showed us around the campus. We were very impressed with the library.

We are looking forward to further cooperation between and GCU and hope to see our contacts in Iceland in the near future.

Thank you for very enlightening time and hope you have a great summer.



On behalf of KEMST,
Bjarndís Fjóla and Anna Kristín.

Visit from the University of Iceland

Earlier this week, we were delighted to host a team from the University of Iceland who were visiting Scotland as part of an Erasmus study visit.

The team of eight were were particularly interested in finding our more about GCUs approach to developing and delivering blended and online learning. They were also keen to find out more about the various routes GCUs CPD programme for learning and teaching offers staff.

Jim and myself gave an overview of our approaches to blended learning, and the GCU Learn environment. Alison Nimmo and Sam Ellis then shared their recent experiences of moving our PGcert in Learning and Teaching from a traditional face to face model to one offering a blended and full online option.

Over the course of the morning there was a great exchange of experience, knowledge and ideas.



Online collaboration, it’s all in the imagination

Wise words from Anne Smith, one of the presenters of this week’s  coffee club session. Anne, along with our GCU LEAD colleague Sabine McKinnon gave an overview of the GCUs involvement with the COIL (collaborative online international learning) project, some reflections on the recent COIL conference and project experiences.

GCU has been a COIL partner for almost 2 years now and was the first Scottish University to join the partnership scheme.  An international collaborator, Anne was quick to give some pragmatic advice about international collaborative projects.  Firstly, you can do short collaborations lasting one or two session (for example debates) and then work up to longer, more in depth projects. As Anne said, it’s all about your imagination and thinking about how you can take an activity you already do and tweaking it to work  with a partner. Using existing learning outcomes is also a good starting point. Once you have those initial elements,  then you can start to  think about potential collaborators.

Anne shared her experience of the Saki and Irn Bru project, which was a collaboration between entrepreneurship students here at GCU and students from Kansai University in Japan.  This was a collaborative project based activity. Using wikis groups of students contributed to the creation of a report. A range of technologies including wikispaces, skype and Facebook. Facebook was only use for social learning/cultural exchange and was very much a student owned space.  Skype proved more problematic both in terms of stable connections and also, it seemed to be a technology that our students didn’t really use that much and weren’t particularly comfortable using.

Experiencing different cultures is a fundamental part the COIL scheme for students (and staff). It’s fair to say Japan and Scotland have one or two differences, so to help the students prepare for the experience, they were given a lecture on Japanese culture from a Japanese colleague.

Overall the experience has led to more innovative ways to achieve learning outcomes in an international setting, and enhanced “intercultural literacy, curiosity and sensitivity through real-world international group working”.

Sabine and Anne have been evaluating their experiences to date and you can read more about it in their recent paper:  A Window to the World: Using Technology to Internationalise Entrepreneurship Education, Journal of Perspectives in Applied Academic Practice, Vol 3, issue 3, pp.15-23

You can find out more in from the slides from the session.

Time for a cuppa – next Blended Learning Coffee Club

The next meeting of the Blended Learning Coffee Club will be on 17th May, 1-2pm in H116. This month we’ll be getting an update on the COIL project. Sabine McKinnon (GCU LEAD), Anne Smith and Michael Bromby (SGBS) will be sharing their experiences and reflections on the recent COIL conference in New York, as well as giving an update on their COIL project and developments here at GCU.

As ever, everyone is welcome, and no registration is required.  However if you email  Sheila MacNeill  ( and let her know you are coming, we’ll send you a voucher for a free coffee/tea.

COIL project logo

Thinking About Open workshop, 27th May

Our colleagues from GCU library are hosting a “Thinking about open” workshop on Friday 27th May from 10am – 12 noon in CEE1.

This workshop is aimed at anyone with an interest in finding out more about OER (Open Educational Resources) and OEP (Open Educational Practice).  It’s fairly informal so come along and share your views! It will be facilitated by Beck Pitt and Bea de los Arcos, researchers at the Open Education Research Hub (OU) on behalf of the Open Educational Practices in Scotland (OEPS) Project. Book your free place on our EventBrite site.

GCU OER Guidance

Opening the black box: Using technology to map the dynamics of workplace learning

Internal and external colleagues maybe interested in this upcoming seminar being held at GCU on 18th May.  For additional information, please contact:

Speaker: Dr Maaike Endedijk, Department of Educational Sciences, University of Twente, The Netherlands

Date/time: Wednesday 18 May 2016, 15:00 – 16:30 (registration from 14:30)

Venue: Glasgow Caledonian University, Centre for Executive Education, Room 4, CEE (building 7 on this campus map:

Webcast: The event will be webcast (register your interest and details will be sent on)

Abstract: Digital technology has become increasingly central to support professional learning at the workplace. The use of technology to investigate the nature of workplace learning is, however, still in its infancies. Learning at the workplace is often social and informal in nature. Due to the covert nature of many of these processes, informal social learning at the workplace is extremely difficult to measure. Wearable sensors have opened a new world of research possibilities to study the dynamic characteristics of social interaction in an innovative and pioneering way.  In this seminar, I would like to give insights in the outcomes of our first studies using sensor technology to describe the dynamics of social interaction patterns at work as a proxy for informal social learning. We will discuss the benefits and downsides of using sensor technology to study learning at the workplace and explore together a new world of research possibilities.

Bio: Maaike Endedijk is Assistant Professor in Professional Learning in Organisations in the Department of Educational Sciences at University of Twente in the Netherlands. Her main research interest is in self-directed professional learning in the workplace. She focuses on the antecedents, consequences and interactions of individual and team-level processes of learning. Her ambition is to develop innovative measurement techniques (e.g., using sensor technology) to get more insights into the black box of these learning processes.

Registration: Attendance is free and open to all but places are limited so please book in advance by emailing:

Conference Season

It’s spring and we seem to be in the middle of learning technology related conference season.  Edinburgh seems to be the venue of choice this month for conferences. Last week it was the UK’s annual celebration of open education,  OER16.

I attended the conference (see more here) and really found it inspiring to hear from so many colleagues about how they are using open education to meet their learning and teaching goals. The keynotes were, as ever, of a very high quality coming and all can be viewed via the ALT YouTube channel.

It was interesting to hear Melissa Highton, Director of Learning, Teaching and Web Services, explain how they are using “open” (content and software)  as a cornerstone for their infrastructure developments, and linking that to their mission around the common good. Certainly something for us here at GCU to think about.  For more detailed coverage of the conference and all the keynotes, it is worth looking at the live blogging from Frances Bell.

This week it’s the turn of LAK16 with its focus on learning analytics. There are a number of pre conference workshops before the conference proper starts on Wednesday. You can follow the twitter backchannel via #LAK16.

Meanwhile, on the other side of the pond, a number of GCU colleagues are part of 400 delegates meeting in New York to  present their work at the 10th COIL conference.  Michael Bromby, Anne Smith, (GSBS) and GCU’s COIL co-ordinator Sabine McKinnon (GCULEAD) are all presenting their work. Again you can follow the conference via twitter by searching for #COILCON.

Open Education week 2016 – GCU Open Learning Design Guides

Over the past year we’ve been working with colleagues to support and develop approaches to fully online delivery. This has included us producing a number of guides and resources outlining our suggest design methodology.  We have been sharing our approaches as they have evolved over the past year, but until now the guides have only been shared internally.


What better week to share some of these resources  than this week,  Open Education Week.  You can access the text (word) versions of our overview design guides via our open educational resources repository, edShare (direct links below).

Both of these guides have been written for our (GCU) learning and teaching context,  however the general principles we advocate are generic enough to be used by others. We have also tried not to reinvent the wheel and use other (open) resources/methodologies wherever possible.

We have also produced online versions of the guides which are embedded below.

Curriculum Design Overview for Online Delivery

A Guide to developing Fully Online Modules in GCULearn

GCU 2016 Programme Leaders Event

Our annual  GCU Programme Leaders Event took place on 2 March at the National Piping Centre. Many thanks to all our presenters and delegates for working with the lack of wifi. Despite that we did have enough tweets to create a summary of the event which you can view here. 

Developing digital capability in learning and teaching was a key theme for the day.  In this context we have defined our approach to (digital) learning as

“developing creative approaches to learning, teaching and assessment through the effective use of technology on campus and online to enhance student engagement and enhance flexible access through a range of digital devices”

As Alison Nimmo highlighted in her presentation, being digitally capable and developing digital teaching and learning often requires “reflection in action” and having a  Plan B (and possibly C).  All our speakers coped incredibly well with the lack of internet connection in the venue.  We did manage to get some comments on our padlet wall, but pen and paper worked well in the venue too.


Using Google+, hangouts for online learning, Blended Learning Coffee Club update

We were delighted that Allan Thompson ( Lecturer, Podiatry)  was able to lead this month’s Blended Learning Coffee Club meeting.

Allan has been using Google hangouts, and a google community with his _ students. This module is delivered fully online and Allan was looking for a simple and effective way to create more meaningful engagement with his (UK and international) students on a couple of modules he teaches on for the MSc Theory of Podiatric Surgery.  After exploring a few options, including Skype, Allan decided to try using Google hangouts to run some online seminars. As Allan is working with small group sizes (under 10) Google hangouts limit of 10 video links works well.

Allan set up a Google+ community and invited students to join it. Resources, and information are shared there as well as on the module area with GCULearn.  Once sessions end the recording is immediately available on YouTube (remember to set the status to unlisted) so again it can easily be embedded in the module area in GCU Learn. Allan noted that he felt more comfortable using a Google community than a Facebook group for learning and teaching activities. Perhaps less fuzzy edges than in Facebook? Students do have to set up google accounts to access the community, but so far his students haven’t had a problem with this. It was also great to hear (and see) an example of our new educational resources repository edShare being used to share diagnostic images.

As well as giving us a demo, Allan made this video outlining how he sets up and uses hangouts.

There was a lively discussion after the demo around the pros and cons of a number of web conferencing options from VSee, to Adobe Connect which we do have a number of institutional licences for. Having successful webinars is does involve a bit of a learning curve for staff and students a like and there are a number of practical issues that always have to remembered. Does everyone have a mic/webcam? Do students have the bandwith to connect – at home and/or at work?  Over the next couple of months we will be rolling out the new Blackboard Collaborate Ultra conferencing system which will integrate with GCULearn. However we would still encourage people to investigate and use any technology that they think fits their needs.  The only caveat is that if anything happens to an externally hosted service then it is up to them to fix it.

There are a plethora of free (at point of use) services out there. In fact only this week there has been a lively discussion on the ALT mailing list about a number of options including Appear.In which is an instant web video chat option for up to 8 people (more here in a short video from ALT’s Martin Hawkesy).   Like everything decisions need to be based on your context – what you are wanting to achieve and how many students you are working with.

If you are interested in finding out more about Google Hangouts, Allan has kindly offered to share his experiences, so just drop him an email.

If you are using any other kind of webconferencing tools then please share your experiences in the comments.