Profile: VC Award Winner JC Penet

Vice Chancellor’s Award-Winning JC Penet talks about good practice, employability and why he is happiest when teaching.

Jean-Christophe Penet, a teaching fellow in the School of Modern Languages has a number of strings to his bow.

An accomplished teacher, he’s seen his professional practice grow to become a huge influence on his life and on the institution.

Penet, who started life at the UWE before moving to Newcastle to take up a teaching fellowship in 2010, has won one of this year’s VC Awards, recognising his work in learning and teaching, in SML and across the Institution.

JC Penet
JC outside the School of Modern Languages, where he teaches.

‘These awards represent a really important way of recognising learning and teaching and the crucial role they play in the University.

‘I like especially that these awards are not based simply on module evaluations or peer review but on a more holistic approach to teaching and learning, taking in lots of elements of professional practice.’

Some of Penet’s major contributions have been above and beyond the realm of classroom teaching or delivering information, focussing on a key student concern: employability.

He’s worked on two key projects in this area for SML, each begun as a response to student demand.

‘The first was in response to a focus group report which we received about concerns students had about employability.

‘We started by running a networking event in which alumni and the companies our students have gone to work for in the past, come in to meet the students of the present.

‘Often I think SML courses are seen as vocational, that you will certainly go into translation or teaching but we wanted to show that there was lots more you could do.

‘We started a blog, run by Joss Harrison in the School called Careers Translated which looks at all the options with a degree in Modern Languages.

‘We now also have an alumni evening where alumni come back and meet with students to discuss what the options are after finishing their degrees.

‘The evening raises money for the Modern Languages Society, so that they can pay for trips etc. throughout the year.

‘We also organised an afternoon event to help students to meet with potential employers and to showcase different careers for languages students.

‘All of these events have drawn really positive feedback from both students and the businesses involved.’

As well as this event, JC is involved in recruitment in the school, running events which bring together local sixthformers, UG and PG students such as ‘Meet the Translators/Interpreters’  to look at transition and progression between school, university and postgraduate study.

Alongside these achievements JC was recognised for his contribution to teaching and learning across the University and is a familiar face on committees and in cross-faculty groups.

He is a founding member of Newcastle Educators, a group started by teaching staff across the University to provide support, advice and a forum for discussion of all things teaching and learning.

He still views this as one of his proudest achievements: ‘It’s changed my professional life having that community to draw on. Having peers to offer advice on teaching but also books, applications and career options.’

Do you have a colleague who goes above and beyond in the name of learning and teaching? Or know someone who has a particularly innovative approach to their teaching?

Find out more about the VC’s Awards or persuade them to put in a Case Study.



Vice-Chancellor’s Award – Winners Announced!

We are pleased to announce that this year’s Vice Chancellor’s Distinguished Teachers Award winners are Jean-Christophe Penet (SML) and Clare Guilding (SME).

Both Clare and JC will receive their awards in congregations taking place today.

The awards were launched in 2010 in order to celebrate and recognise outstanding teaching at Newcastle.

Each year three types of award are made; two for academic staff – a general award and an award for staff working within the societal challenge theme; and one for professional support staff.

Candidates for the awards are expected to demonstrate leadership in teaching and learning and to innovate across the areas of pastoral care, supervision and curriculum design.

Clare’s innovative teaching techniques have already been the subject of one of our Case Studies, which looked at her use of Sim-Man to teaching students diagnostic techniques!

Clare said: ‘I’m delighted to receive this award which shows Newcastle University’s continued commitment to supporting good teaching practice and teachers in the institution.’

She has also been nominated for numerous Newcastle University Student Union Teaching Excellence Awards for Innovative Teaching Methods, Contribution to Pastoral Support and last year picked up the Overall Outstanding Teacher Award.

She has also received the Association for the Study of Medical Education (ASME) EDG Educator Innovator Award (January 2016) and British Pharmacological Society Education Prize (December 2015).

Jean-Christophe is a lecturer in French and Translation studies in the School of Modern Languages.

A founding member of the peer-support network EDUBITES and a committed advocate of peer support for teaching –focused staff, he’s the Employability Officer in his School and runs a range of initiatives with local businesses.

He said: ‘I like especially that these awards are not based simply on module evaluations or peer review but on a more holistic approach to teaching and learning, taking in lots of elements of professional practice.

‘It’s so important to recognise the value of great teaching and to support and encourage that across the University.’

Unfortunately there were no nominations in the Professional Support Staff category this year – we hope that this will be rectified next year and would like to encourage staff to nominate support staff who have made an outstanding contribution to learning and teaching.

You can read profiles of each of the VC Award winners and hear more about what they think makes for outstanding teaching on the LTDS blog next week!

Congratulations Clare and JC!

Guest Blog: NCL London One Year On…

NCL London’s Paul Fleet, Vanessa Varvas and Claire Twyman look back on the last year…

Newcastle University London is coming to the end of its formative and founding year.  It has an excellent number of Pathway students who have completed their studies and are ready to progress onto its Marketing, Management, Finance & Accounting UG and PG programmes; whilst its current PGTs are now in ‘dissertation mode’ after being immersed in the industry of business through their studies.

Included in this core phrase of the campus are industry guest speakers on a Masterclass series, the students going out into the City in work-based projects (such as the Spitalfield’s Market Challenge), and students being involved in similarly immersive events back at the mothership (such as the Gain A Global Advantage day at NUBS).

Not content with just with industry immersion, the Campus is bringing in ideas of innovation to its learning and teaching.

These include specific speakers from the City of London being part of the delivery within the modules so that the students experience a healthy balance of research-informed theory into practice during their lectures and seminars; the Campus moving in 2016/17 to an all online assessment and feedback process; boosting the technology of ReCap to capture three streams (slides, audio, and presenter/whiteboard) for the benefit of post-lecture revision; the linking of translation students at Newcastle with business students at London so both can role play elements of their future careers in a multi-lingual business negotiation meeting, and… if all goes to plan the installation of a Decision Theatre (think IMAX for Education) so that there can be simultaneous cross-campus delivery of equivalent/complementary modules.

The next academic cycle will see Pathway, UG, PGT, PGR (including PhD) all happening at the Campus, and, at the point of writing this, the firm acceptances at NCL-LDN look to exceed the set UG target.

Further, where these potential students are coming from is not just an international market and nor is it in competition with Newcastle itself.  Analysis has shown that potential students in the overwhelming majority (96%) apply to one campus or the other, and those that apply for NCL-LDN have Firm and Insurance choices with Queen Mary, University of London, City University (CASS Business School), Royal Holloway, University of London, University of Surrey, Coventry University, King’s College London, LSE, University of Reading, UCL and University of Exeter rather than Newcastle.

This all makes for good news for those units and staff who are looking to have an involvement with NCL-LDN.

The Campus is strong in its beliefs and presence (it is not a flying faculty in retreat like some across the sector); has administrative, professional support and academic staff with a can-do mind set; has established itself as a point of the North in the South for meetings, conferences, policy events, and so on breaking the London-centric barriers; and it firmly upholds the governance, community and civic ethos of Newcastle University.

We believe in lifelong learning

This September sees an opportunity to take part in our Ageing Well: Falls course, the third time we have delivered the course on FutureLearn.

FALLS_300x250 Starts 5 Sept Box

Looking back at our previous two courses, it is a real pleasure to see how engaged and enthusiastic our learners were with the course materials.  Learners worked together as a community and participated in discussions, activities and quizzes, creating an active and supportive learning environment.

Should this be a surprise?  Well not really, we know that FutureLearn have been working hard to “pioneer the best social learning experiences for everyone” and our course shows that this still holds with an older audience.

In the UK, only 9% of people aged over 65 and 36% of those aged 55-64 used a computer on a daily basis when surveyed in 2006. But by August 2014, these figures had risen to 42% and 74% respectively. Of particular relevance to our Ageing Well: Falls course, is that when older people use the Internet, one of the main reasons is to seek health information. 1, 2

Data from our course also helps to show that older people engage with online learning. The graph below shows the age distribution of 412 people who volunteered their age during one of our activities.  The oldest learner completing this activity was 87, showing that you are never too old to learn!


As before the course will be facilitated by Dr James Frith, and colleagues from the Newcastle Falls and Syncope service. You can sign up at

  1. Office for National Statistics. Internet Access – Households and Individuals: Statistical Bulletin; 2014.
  2. Morrell RW, Mayhorn CB, Bennett J. A survey of World Wide Web use in middle-aged and older adults. Hum Factors 2000;42(2):175-82.


Blackboard Module Rollover and Upgrade 2016/17

The module rollover process will take place over the weekend of the 30th/31st July. Modules for the new academic year will be available from Monday 1st August 2016. You should not experience any downtime during this period.

NUIT will be upgrading the current version of Blackboard to the Q4 2015 release over the weekend of the 6th and 7th August and you may experience some downtime whilst this takes place. There will be no significant user interface changes to note but the upgrade is necessary to ensure that system bugs are fixed and to ensure Blackboard stability.

We have created a Module Rollover Guide which details what happens when your module/community rolls over to the new academic year.  Please note that rollover has not changed from previous years. The guide has simply been created to document the process and answer some of the questions we regularly get asked.

Where relevant, please ensure that key documents for your module are up to date for your new cohort of students.

If you require any further information about this or would like us to help you ensure your module is ready for the new academic year, please contact LTDS.


STAR CASE STUDY: Using Facebook to Facilitate International Debate

Dr Bronwen Jones uses Facebook to allow Newcastle University Law School students to debate legal issues with students at Helwan University in Eygpt.

The winning students from Helwan University in Eygpt.

The debate functions as part of Bronwen’s teaching on intellectual property law for undergraduate students.

The collaboration came about after Bronwen met with Professor Yasser Gadallah whilst at a series of workshops in Cairo. The final piece of the puzzle fell into place when Dr  Shaimaa Lazem moved to Newcastle to begin working with Culture Lab.

Shaimaa set up a closed Facebook group which would bring together one group of student from each institution to discuss intellectual property law.

Bronwen said: ‘In part I wanted to do something to show that you could have international collaboration without winning a big grant or spending money.

‘But I also wanted to facilitate a cultural exchange. I wanted my students to think more critically about the ways in which intellectual property law can advantage or disadvantage people from certain countries or cultures.’

Each group was given one week to prepare material, write an argument and post it on Facebook.

This written response helped to ensure that the Eygptian students were not disadvantaged by conducting a verbal debate in English.

Bronwen said: ‘Some students who were initially worried about participating joined in later and it became more and more popular over the semester.

‘Some actually joined when the debate was over because the materials posted – videos, articles etc. were useful. And the page is still up and running now.’

Each argument was then evaluated by academic staff.

Shaimaa and Bronwen
Shaimaa and Bronwen

In fact, the debate has been a tremendous success with both groups of students. Helwan won the debate and Newcastle students attained higher marks in their assessments around this topic, informed in no small part, Bronwen is certain, by their experience of the debate.

Both groups enjoyed their experience and the teaching staff are currently in the process of analysing data from questionnaires they filled out about their experiences.

Bronwen has presented on the Helwan/Newcastle Facebook project in Cape Town in September 2015 and will present on the results of the questionnaire at the European Intellectual Property Teachers Network (EIPTN) meeting in Sophia, Bulgaria in July.

You can read more about how Bronwen did it and see more examples from across the University on the Case Studies database.

Do you have an example of great teaching from your school? Tell us about it!


VLE Feedback Sessions April 2016

In April, the Learning and Teaching Development Service and the Student Union ran some pop up feedback sessions in the Business School, the Robinson Library, the Student Union and the Medical School asking students one question, ‘What one thing would improve your experience of Blackboard or the LSE?’ The same question was also added  to the Blackboard My Institution page to which students could give an online response.

In total, 434 students gave feedback, 402 about Blackboard and 32 about the LSE. The student responses were collated and categorised into main themes. Some students covered more than one theme in their answer.

Few students had issues with the functionality of Blackboard and 20.65% of comments were very positive where they felt staff engaged with it. From the small sample of students who commented about the LSE, 43.75% of comments were positive and found it very clear and easy to use.

The main Blackboard issue students raised was regarding organisation and consistency of module content with 22.64% of the students who responded recognising this as a problem. In answer to the question, student comments included, ‘All lecturers using the same way of organising. Everything in the same place!’ and ‘Same layout for every module. It would make it so much easier if all modules had the same layout.’

Other key themes included the mobile application, Blackboard Learn and the availability of lecture materials and ReCap recordings.

This feedback gave us a very useful snapshot of student opinion on the VLE. You can read the full report that was shared at the HaSS and SAgE FLTSEC meetings this month and view the student comments by Faculty, School and Stage.

If you would like any tailored Blackboard training or would like us to work with you to reorganise your modules or come along to your school meeting to discuss creating a school, or discipline, specific template , please contact LTDS.


Videos of Wenger-Trayner Keynotes Available Online

Xi’an Jiaotong-Liverpool University (XJTLU) in China recently welcomed social and community learning experts Etienne and Beverley Wenger-Trayner and have made videos of their talks and workshops available online.

The videos – recorded over a three day visit during which the pair were keynote speakers at the University’s International Colloquium – are all available online.

Each offers a short insight into the sessions delivered around social learning and communities of practice as approaches to teaching.

Both are global leaders in the field. Etienne has authored and co-authored seminal articles and books on learning, including Situated Learning (1991) where the term ‘community of practice’ was coined.

A ‘community of practice’, as Wenger describes on the pair’s website is a group of people ‘who share a concern or a passion for something they do and learn how to do it better as they interact regularly.’

He has also published Communities of Practice (1998),  Cultivating Communities of Practice (2002), and Digital Habitats (2009).

Beverly is a learning consultant who specialises in social learning systems.

She has worked with international organizations such as the Nuclear Threat Initiative, the International Labor Organization, and The World Bank.

The videos include their keynote address, interviews and a CPS/CPD workshop. They are quick to view and very informative, offering a range of tips and insights from two experts in the field.


Amending or deleting a question from a test after it has taken place

We often get queries about whether it’s possible to amend or delete questions from a test in Blackboard when the test has already taken place.  The answer is yes – and if the test uses question types that have automatic grading Blackboard will automatically regrade the test to reflect the changes you make.

That said, there is a bug in Blackboard which on rare occasions can cause problems with students’ test attempts when you amend or delete a question.  To help safeguard against this we recommend that you take the steps below before you make any changes to a test after it has taken place.

Close the test and make sure that there are no attempts in progress

Ensure that the test is no longer available to students, so that there is no danger that they might be taking the test when you make the change.  To check this:

  1. Go to the Content Area where the test is deployed in the module, and hover over the name of the test.  Click on the dropdown arrow that appears, and select Edit test options:Edit test options
  2. EITHER under Test Availability make sure that for Make the link available the No option is selected:         Make link avail No
  3. OR/AND scroll down to the Display Until date, and make sure this is set to a date and time in the past (this can be 5 minutes from the current time):Display Until date & time
  4. Scroll to the bottom of the test options screen and click Submit to save any changes you have made.
  5. Open the Grade Centre by clicking on Control Panel > Grade Centre > Full Grade Centre.
  6. Find the column for the test, and scroll down to check whether there are any attempts in progress, shown with the ‘Attempt in progress’ icon of a blue clock:Attempt in progress icon
  7. If there are any attempts in progress submit them on behalf of the student if appropriate.  See ‘Attempt in progress’ grade centre icon for an explanation and instructions .

Export grade centre

  1. In the module, open the Full Grade Centre.  In menu bar at the top of the screen you’ll see the option Work Offline on the right hand side.  Click the down arrow and select Download:Work Offline
  2. In the Download Grades screen leave the default options selected, and click Submit.
  3. On the next screen click the Download button and save the file to an appropriate location (e.g. your H: drive or shared file space for your school).

Download test results

  1. In the Grade Centre find the column for the test, and click the dropdown arrow to the right of the column name.  Select Download Results from the menu:Download results
  2. In the Download Results screen leave the default options selected.  Click the button to download results, and again save to an appropriate location.

Note: both of these actions produce a .csv file, which you can open and amend in Excel as required.

Amend or delete a test question and regrade attempts

Once you have completed the steps above  you can go ahead and make the required changes to the test.

  1. Open the test canvas.  You can do this via the Control Panel > Tests, Surveys and Pools > Tests, then hover over the name of the exam and click the dropdown arrow.  Select the Edit Test option.
  2. Scroll to the question that you need to amend or delete, and hover over the title.  Click the dropdown arrow that appears:Edit question dropdown
  3. To amend a question select Edit from the dropdown menu.  Make the required changes.  Click Submit and Update Attempts.  Blackboard will display a warning message; click OK, and the test will automatically be regraded:amending question warning
  4. To delete a question select Delete and Regrade from the dropdown menu.  Blackboard will display a warning message.  Click OK, and the test will automatically be regraded:deleting question warning
  5. Once you have amended or deleted all of the required questions, check the Grade Centre column for the test to ensure that the attempts have been automatically graded as expected.