Learning Spaces Inspiration

Last week I attended a Heads of eLearning Forum (HeLF) event on Learning Spaces at Birmingham University.  It was good timing, as GCU is planning to transform a floor in the Hamish Wood Building with state of the art teaching spaces, as well as refurbishing a number of lecture theatres.  Learning from the experiences of others who are further down the road with these changes is really inspiring.

We heard first of all about past and future developments in teaching rooms and study spaces at the University of Birmingham, guided by their Learning Spaces Strategy. It’s interesting to note that Learning Spaces projects come under the wing of the Centre for Learning and Academic Development and Learning Spaces, where they have a Learning Spaces Development Officer.

Caroline Pepper from Loughborough reminded us of the UK Higher Education Learning Space Toolkit produced jointly by UCISA, SCHOMS and AUDE, which is a practical guide and another source of inspiration. I like the fact that the toolkit focuses very much on facilitating learning. It emphasises the diverse range of stakeholders who should be involved from the outset, including students and teaching staff.  The fdevelopments at Loughborough are based around a set of key principles.  Useful practical advice included the importance of flexibility to allow spaces, technology and learning to evolve over time, and the importance of natural light, especially in IT labs where it is often forgotten. Establishing an evaluation baseline early on against which success can be measured is vital.

We were also reminded that when new active learning classrooms are established, academic development is key to ensuring lecturers are prepared for making best use of the spaces with their students.

Peter Ryan of Canterbury Christchurch University shared experiences of the development of a new state of the art library building in its Canterbury campus as a learning space, including ‘maker spaces’ to encourage collaboration and co-creation among students.

We also heard from Paul Burt of UCL, who outlined the highly ambitious programme of teaching space upgrades that is taking place across UCL’s London campuses. It was interesting to hear that they have created new specialist AV/Learning Spaces posts (4 in all) rather than employing external consultants. This is allowing them to build up in-house expertise resulting in speedier start-ups and greater success for new projects.  UCL are sharing their experiences with the sector and have produced their own learning spaces and AV guide.

All in all, the day allowed a really useful exchange of experiences and ideas. There was also some future-gazing into a shift away from fixed lectern equipment and the standard ‘teaching wall’ at the front of a room.  Wifi capacity is key. As one participant put it, ‘If I can connect my iPad easily to my TV at home, why is it still so difficult to enable that for students and staff using their own devices in a teaching space?’ Why indeed.

UCISA Learning Spaces Toolkit


Developing digital capability through flexible curriculum design

We are delighted that GCU features as one of a number of new case studies launched by Jisc last week at #digifest as part of their growing set of resources around building staff digital capabilities.  Our case study, titled Developing digital capability through flexible curriculum design focuses on our recent developments in curriculum design and supporting staff for more fully online delivery.

You can download and read the case study here.


Screen Shot 2017-03-20 at 11.08.39 am




Next blended learning coffee club – GCU DASH and analytics update, 22 March

The next Blended Learning Coffee Club will take place on Wednesday 22 March, at 12.30 in H116.

Kirsty Roden will be giving an overview of how to use GCU DASH,  an interactive suite of management information dashboards, to support the programme monitoring process. There will also be an update on our progress with the Jisc Effective Learning Analytics programme.

There is no need to book a place, just come along.  Unfortunately we can’t provide tea and coffee anymore, but feel free to byo (bring your own).

Blended learning still a key trend, Horizon 2020 HE Edition

Every year the NMC produce a trends report for HE. It’s always something to look out for, to give an indication of trends in learning and technology for the sector. The report is developed with input from an invited panel of international experts who collectively deliberate, cogitate and develop the key trends for each year. (The also report includes a detailed overview of the Delphi based methodology that was used).

The infographic below provides a summary of this years report.


The trends are just that, trends. Some you will agree with more than others, some seem to have a bit more longevity than others.  Interestingly this year, the report includes a review of the past six years, which clearly illustrates some of the recent ed tech fads and fashions (e.g. MOOCs), and some of the more enduring (real?) challenges the sector is facing.

Blended Learning (or blended learning designs as it is called in the report) appears consistently in the key trends since 2012.  For those of us involved in this area, that is great. It shows that we still need to focus on design learning and effective use of technologies. I also suspect that blended learning has embraced and embedded a number of the other key trend, significant challenges and developments in technology identified by the reports over the past six years, particularly mobile and bring your own device.

Blended delivery is now mainstream.  Ensuring that we are designing effective learning activities, assessment and feedback opportunities is constantly evolving.  Hopefully it will be a key trend for a few more years to come.

You can access the full report here.





Once again GCU is taking part in the national open, online course, Bring Your Own Device for Learning (#BYDO4L) which is running for 5 days next week, 16th – 20th January.

BYOD4L is a bite-size facilitated open course offered over 5 days for educators and students  in HE but also anybody else who would like to learn with us as to how we can utilise our digital devices for professional, lifelong and lifewide learning. You can find out more about the event here.

During the week participants explore topics based on the 5C Framework.  The Blended Learning Coffee club ( facilitated by The Academic Development Team) will be providing daily lunch time drop in sessions for staff in H116 , where we will be discussing the topic of the day, and our own professional (and personal) experiences.

  • Day 1 (Monday  12.30 – 1.30) : Connecting – introduction and connecting to/with BYOD4L.
  • Day 2 (Tuesday 12.30 -1.30): Communicating – how can  we communicate more effectively internally and externally using mobile devices/apps/social media?
  • Day 3 (Wednesday 12.30-1.30): Curating – update on edShare, our educational resource repository.
  • Day 4 (Thursday 1.00- 2.00pm): Collaborating – Using Collaborate Ultra GCUs learning and teaching web conferencing system  (online session, but you can come along to H116 and have a collaborative experience too). Join the session here PLEASE USE CHROME BROWSER,
  • Day 5 (Friday 12.30 – 1.30 ): Creating – reflection on the week and sharing our BYOD4L stories, what have been the highlights and how can we share those experiences in our own contexts?

We hope that many colleagues will be able to join us at various points over the week.

Open, and free CPD opportunity in January #BYOD4L

Do you feel like you’re not getting the most out of your mobile technology? Do you want some help with how to use it in your work? Then Bring Your Own Device for Learning (BYOD4L)  may be for you.

This free open course, starting Monday 16th  January 2017 and running for five consecutive days, looks at how you can make the most of your smart device (tablet/phone/laptop) through short activities and additional resources. The five days cover 5 Cs – connecting, communicating, curating, collaborating and creating. The short course will enable you to connect with peers and learn within a wider community.

There is no requirement to join in every activity; the decision of how much time you wish to spend on this is entirely up to you. During the week there will be activities around the University so keep your eyes and ears open!

Once again, the Blended Learning Coffee Club will be running drop in sessions every day throughout the week.  These informal sessions will provide an opportunity for staff and students to connect and collaborate with the theme of the day and share experiences and practical tips for making the most of mobile technology for learning and teaching.

The lunchtime sessions will run each day in H116 between 12 and 2pm. In the meantime you can find out about the course here and you can follow updates on twitter via @BYOD4L and #BYOD4LD

BYOD4L community badge picture

2016 Celebration of Learning and Teaching

word cloud of tweets using #LTGGCU
Word cloud of tweets using #LTGGCU

Earlier this week, colleagues from across the University came together for our annual celebration of learning and teaching.  It was an action pack day. The morning consisted of  presentations on the Common Good Curriculum, digital learning across all three schools, a live link to the ALC in Mauritius and our key note speaker Professor Mark Stubbs,  Head of Learning and Research Technologies,  MMU.

Mark’s presentation on how he and his team have wrapped their learning technology provision around the student experience was inspiring to everyone.  Mark illustrated how having a co-ordinated, appropriately led and funded approach to change can make visible difference to the student experience.

Central to this change has been support from senior management, and team led by someone like Mark who  understands “the business” of learning and teaching.  Of course staff have had a huge input into this change too. Mark was very honest about the challenges they have faced, and it was pleasing to hear that they are now going to focusing on the staff experience more.   A recording of his presentation will be available soon, but in the meantime you can view his slides below.

Many thanks to all of our colleagues who contributed to the event.

A summary of the day from twitter activity is also available via this storify.


Next Coffee Club meeting, 7th December, 1-1.30 H116

After a bit of an hiatus due to departmental restructuring  the Coffee Club is making a return.   We realise this is short notice but we going to hold a short meeting next Wednesday, 7th December  (1-1.30pm) in H116.   We’ll  be giving an overview of some activities for next year, including our participation in  the national  BYOD4L (bring your own device for learning) open learning event; and of course looking to you for ideas of areas/topics for sharing practice.
From 12 noon UCISA are running a webinar called Successful Webinars so we will be tuned into that  in H116 if anyone would like to join us.  
From now on it will be more of a BYOC (bring your own coffee ) event, but seeing as it’s nearly Christmas there may be some selection box treats!
As ever this is an informal meeting, so feel free to pop in and out as your own time allows.  Please also feel free to forward this information to any colleagues you think might be interested in coming along. 
The webinar starts at 12, and our main discussion at 1pm .
Looking forward to seeing you next week.
coffee club graphic


And we’re back!

The blog has been a bit quiet over the last couple of months. This has partly been due to holidays and the summer break, but also to some internally restructuring.  GCU LEAD is no more and we are now part of the new Academic Quality and Development department.  More information on that to follow in future posts.  This blog, the coffee club will continue.  We have a few ideas for sessions, but if you have anything you would like to share then please get in touch.

Last month we attended the annual ALT-C conference which was provided 3 fantastic days of sharing practice and experience. The keynotes were excellent this year and covered a broad range of topics from cyber-bulling, to gaming, to information literacy, to neuro-myths. They are all available to view now from the conference website. You can also read a range of reflections on the conference from this list of blog posts.

Below are presentations are our presentations and a link to a one from from our PhD student Louise Drumm.





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.