Category Archives: News

NU Reflect: engaging with reflective practice

ePortfolio is being redeveloped and relaunched as NU Reflect for September 2021 to help support personal, professional, and academic reflection in both modular and non-modular contexts. For improved functionality and ease of use, the system will be split into two landing pages in Canvas:

The NU Reflect landing page will provide the opportunity to record and share reflections, recognise and categorise personal skills being developed, e.g., against the Graduate Framework, and to participate in Groups and collaborate with other students in Communities.

The Personal Tutoring and Support landing page will provide options to engage with tutors/tutees, create and manage individual and group meetings, and for students to access School specific and global support and guidance materials.

The benefits of reflective practice

Incorporating reflection in programmes and modules provides an effective way to support students to understand their own learning processes, and to develop their awareness of their own skills and abilities and evidence these, applying theoretical knowledge to real experiences and supporting employability. Guidance and case studies on how colleagues at the University have incorporated reflective practice are available.

If you have any questions regarding NU Reflect, please contact

Coming Soon: Interactive Content Made Easy with H5P

Example H5P Hotspot item – click the + to try it out

Adding engaging and interactive content to your online course materials will get easier very soon.  The University has bought an enterprise licence for H5P for use by colleagues for a year.  Towards the end of August we’ll be making it available to all Canvas and MLE Teachers giving them the ability to make accessible interactive widgets, like the ones on this post. H5P isn’t just restricted to Canvas and MLE, it can be used on web sites too. 

We’re particularly excited about H5P!  Once it is turned on there will no longer be a need to be an HTML guru to do things like: 

  • Add accordions 
  • Add single question formative quiz questions 
  • Generate branching scenarios 
  • Create 360 degree virtual tours … and much more 

H5P has been successfully used by our friends in other universities– it’s very well documented and each content type has its own tutorial. 

We will be using the fully supported ( version of H5P and, while we are plumbing this in, if you would like to have a peek at what is in store do check out H5Ps web pages for their documentation.  We would recommend holding fire on creating accounts on and wait instead until we have our Newcastle H5P site up and running. It won’t be long! 

How you can help us? 

We have H5P for a one-year pilot initially – so we will need feedback on how you are using it, how your students are finding it, and how you would like our H5P support to develop. 

If you would like to get early access to H5P, receive updates, or help our evaluation please  JOIN OUR H5P COMMUNITY by filling out this form.

Sample H5P Course Presentation – try moving between the slides and answering the questions


Podcast icon

Welcome to the art of the possible week 2021 podcast blog.

This fortnightly podcast will look at all the great things we are doing in learning and teaching here at Newcastle University.

In each episode we will hear from a wide range of guests, and guest hosts to discover more about their stories and the work behind their stories. There will be long form conversations, magazine style articles, and much more.

Visit our home podcast page for more information links to the episodes.

So, remember to download, like, and subscribe where you get your podcasts from. You can subscribe on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, and Google Podcasts.

If you are new to podcasts, you will see some useful links on each episode page.  You can listen and subscribe directly from there. If you are listening through a phone, there are many podcast apps like Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google Podcast, that you may need to download but ideal for listening on the go.

In this episode we have a short message from our new Pro-Vice-Chancellor Education Professor Tom Ward, welcoming you to this new fortnightly podcast.

You can find this episode on Wednesday 7th July here.

In this episode Dr Paul Fleet (Chair of the Academic Progress Board of Studies at Newcastle University) and Michael Atkinson (Lecturer in Medical Education and Mindfulness Teacher at Newcastle University) talk about how we can best integrate mental health and wellbeing into our daily lives in ways that can enhance our working practices and beyond.

You can find this episode on Wednesday 7th July here.

We hope you enjoy the art of the possible 2021. Get in touch at


Welcome to the art of the possible week 2021. This week will focus on blended learning, effective practice, ways to share, and opportunities to learn from each other.

The art of the possible 2021 will:

  • Showcase the excellent practice developed across the University in blended and online learning over the past year by spotlighting case studies and interviews with colleagues across the University.
  • Inspire ideas for blended learning proposals for consideration by Faculties.
  • Re-focus minds on the education strategy objective for Newcastle University to become recognised nationally as a leading university for the use of technology enhanced learning to support campus-based education

We have a week of online sessions including guest speakers, Helen O’Sullivan Chair of the Association for Learning Technology, and DVC at Chester University.  Helen will be delivering a keynote session called ‘Preparing students for their future, not our past: How the pandemic pushed us past the tipping point into education 4.0.’

Independent researcher Helen Beetham will be delivering a two-part session on designing online activities for university learning.

There will two sessions focusing on canvas commons and sharing our ideas with each other.

We also have a session looking at virtual field work and how we’ve adapted during the pandemic.

You can visit elements to sign up, please note there is limited space available but please check.

The new Learning and Teaching @ Newcastle University Podcast will be released on Wednesday. This fortnightly podcast will explore some of the great things we’ve been doing in Learning and Teaching here at Newcastle University.

There is a new homepage for the podcast and on Wednesday you will find the first two episodes. Episode one is a welcome message from our new Pro-Vice-Chancellor education Professor Tom Ward. The second episode is a wonderful conversation between Dr Paul Fleet (Chair of the Academic Progress Board of Studies at Newcastle University) and Michael Atkinson (Lecturer in Medical Education and Mindfulness Teacher at Newcastle University) exploring how we can look after our mental health and mental wellness.

You can listen and download from our podcast page, or wherever you normally get your podcasts from.

Remember to download, like, and subscribe, and you won’t miss an episode.

We will be releasing new case studies highlighting how we have adapted to teaching online since March 2020 and some great stories about how colleagues are being creative and innovative with technologies, to give really effective education experiences for our students. You can view more information through the week here.

We hope you enjoy the art of the possible 2021. Get in touch at


Welcome to the art of the possible week 2021 case study page.

This page will focus on case studies that will promote blended learning, effective practice, ways to share, and opportunities to learn from each other.

Select each link to find out more. Remember we will be releasing more throughout the week.

Case study one – The Language Resource Centre’s Online Tandem Board

In the past the Language Resource Centre used a physical tandem board, where students could come in and pin up a notice to say what languages they spoke and what languages they wanted to practice. With lockdown in March 2020 and no access to the physical centre, within a week an online version of the tandem board was set up to facilitate people being able to do language exchanges entirely remotely wherever they were.

Find out more here.

Case study two – Peer-Assisted Learning (PAL) Language Practice Programme

Over the years the Language Resource Centre has offered a programme of student-led language learning groups during term-time. These groups provide an opportunity for informal speaking practice to all Newcastle University members who are registered with the LRC. With the March 2020 lockdown, the decision was made to continue this activity but to trial taking it online using Microsoft Teams. For the academic year of 2020-21 the programme was run entirely online and was also expanded, in terms of number of hours offered, the types of sessions and languages.

Find out more here.

Case study three – Cultural Peeps Podcast

Iain Wheeldon from the School of Arts and Cultures runs the podcast Cultural Peeps; a series of interviews with Arts and Cultures professionals working across the sector. The interviews focus on their career journeys, and allow listeners to gain insight into real life careers in Arts and Cultures, and the various circumstances that influence their direction.

Find out more here.

Case study four – Engineering Poster Competition

One of the high points for Stage 3 students is the annual poster competition normally held in a large venue with all students and supervisors simultaneously. This is something that could not happen this year due to the pandemic restrictions. Miro was used to set up a poster exhibition for around 80 posters which is simply accessible via a URL.

Find out more here.

Case study five – Making Data Accessible for Business Students

Making data analytics more accessible for students of Newcastle Business School using a range of engagement methods and software.

Find out more here.

Case study six – Creating a Canvas Community

The Philosophy team needed a space for students where they could share important information, events and opportunities in a way that wouldn’t be overwhelming. They knew they wanted to avoid sending lots of emails, so a Canvas Community provided a great option.

Find out more here.

Case study seven – Sustainable Futures in Focus – Global Partner Student Research Poster Competition and Forum

A collaboration with four other Universities provided students with a unique opportunity to showcase research related to UN Sustainable Development Goal 10: Reduce inequalities within and among countries.

Find out more here.

Case study eight – Using Design Sprints to Stimulate Students Collaboration

A Design Sprint is a process condensed in time, objective and outcomes used to transform an idea into a prototype. This case study explores how this approach was used to gather students’ feedback on using data analytics to support their learning experience.

Case study nine – Assessing students innovatively via peer-reviewed small group video presentations

Students assessment through a pre-recorded oral group presentation submitted via Canvas. The assessment also included peer feedback.

Find out more here.

We hope you enjoy the art of the possible 2021. Get in touch at

Winners announced: Vice-Chancellor’s Education Excellence awards 2021

Congratulations to the winners of the Vice-Chancellor’s Education Excellence Awards 2021. These awards reward individuals and teams who make a marked impact on enhancing the student learning experience. This year’s winners impressed the judging panel with their commitment to students, as well as the transformational impact of their work.

Professor Tom Ward, Pro-Vice-Chancellor Education congratulated the winners:

‘Since starting at the University in May, I’ve been impressed by the commitment of colleagues to work in partnership with students to enable the very best educational experience for our students.

The Vice-Chancellor’s Education Excellence Awards recognise and celebrate outstanding work happening across the University. This year’s winners have demonstrated passion, creativity and impact and I’m sure that you will all join me in congratulating them on their achievements.’

Awards and Recipients

Individual Award Winners

Dr Vanessa Armstrong, School of Biomedical, Nutritional and Sports Sciences

Recognised for: work as Academic Lead in Employability and the transformational impact within the School in this area. The development of the placement year within the School,  influence on the wider view of placements across the institution, and research in this area was commended.

Dr Vanessa Armstrong

‘I’m really honoured and grateful  to receive the Vice-Chancellor’s Award for Teaching Excellence in recognition for some of the initiatives and contributions I have made to teaching and learning since starting my role at Newcastle University in 2012. 

It is great to get recognition for the employability-related projects that I have worked on that have had a positive impact on our student cohorts and helped them to gain confidence and go on to graduate destinations.  Accessibility of opportunities for all is something that I am passionate about and hope to carry on working on and developing working alongside colleagues across the School, Careers Service and University.’

Dr Stacy Gillis, Senior Lecturer in Twentieth Century Literature & Culture, School of English Literature, Language and Linguistics

Recognised for: the scale of the transformational impact in the School of English Literature, Language and Linguistics, across all levels. Numerous awards and positive feedback show how Stacy’s effective teaching is valued by students.  The panel found the work undertaken with children in care was moving and particularly noteworthy, showing positive value for both students and the children. 

Dr Stacy Gillis

‘In these days in which the humanities are under attack for a perceived lack of ‘value’, it is so heartening that the institution is recognising the work of those of us who teach in the humanities: the humanities is the study of what makes us human, and how we got to this point, how to respond to the challenges of today, and where we might go in the future.  This award really marks the tremendous work of all my students (past, present and future!) in grappling with these complex – but ultimately rewarding – challenges.’

Team Award Winners

Combined Honours Centre, Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences

Recognised for: the passionate and supportive environment the Combined Honours Centre provides for their students. This is clearly demonstrated by the excellent student feedback and numerous nominations for TEAs. The panel felt that an inclusivity document produced by Combined Honours was commendable and noted that the Combined Honours Centre clearly has an innovative approach to teaching and learning with co-creation and student partnership at the forefront, and this gives real value to the students.  

Combined Honours Team and Students

‘The Combined Honours team wishes to dedicate this award to our strong and vibrant student community who have made such a vital contribution to the life of our centre and the university as a whole. We are truly humbled to have received such a prestigious award and delighted to have had the opportunity to share our passion for student engagement and student-staff partnership with the awarding panel.  We hope that this experience will create further opportunities to promote our supportive culture, and approaches to collaborative learning and teaching across the wider university, offering support to others that want to do the same.’ 

Patient Pathways, Graduate School, Faculty of Medical Sciences

Recognised for: The Patient Pathways Workshop event sees proactive roles for patients in the teaching of Clinical Scientists as they share personal experiences of their pathway from discovering the first signs of head and neck cancer through diagnosis, treatment and subsequent after care with small groups of trainee Clinical Scientists. The panel found the project very moving with an excellent ethos and transformational impact for all people involved. The student experience is enhanced significantly through experiencing the patient stories, with a clear impact on practice in the NHS. The panel thought the project to be very innovative, were impressed by the co-design of the workshop, and feel this work should be championed across the Faculty and wider institution. The resilience shown by the continuation of the workshop during the pandemic was commendable.  

Patient Pathways Team

Dr Chris Eggett, Degree Programme Director said:  

‘I’m delighted and honoured to receive this award on behalf of the delivery team for our Patient Pathway Workshop.  The success of this teaching session over the last five years has been due to the superb contributions from a broad team of enthusiasts.  Local patients are key members of the teaching team working alongside NHS and academic colleagues from Newcastle, London and Liverpool to give our MSc Clinical Science students insight into all aspects of a patient care pathway from diagnosis, through treatment to recovery.’

For further information about the awards, including the application process, please visit the VC’s Education Excellence Award section of the LTDS website. The 2022 awards will open next academic year.

Preparing students for their future, not our past:How the pandemic pushed us past the tipping point into education 4.0

The Art of the Possible keynote session

Monday 5 July, 11am-12 noon

Colleagues and PGR students can register here

Students can register here

We are pleased to welcome Professor Helen O’Sullivan, Chair, Association for Learning Technology, Provost and Deputy Vice-Chancellor, Chester University who will be discussing the lessons we’ve learned during the pandemic and what we can take from the pandemic into the real world. Find out more about Professor O’Sullivan below.

Biography – Professor Helen O’Sullivan


As Provost and Deputy Vice-Chancellor, Professor O’Sullivan is responsible for providing strategic leadership of the academic function of the University, including the development of the academic portfolio, enhancement of the teaching and learning experience and leadership of the Deans of Faculty. She joined Chester on 1st April 2021 and before that was Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Education) at Keele University.

Helen graduated in molecular biology at the University of Liverpool before taking a PhD in bacterial genetics. After a postdoctoral fellowship, she moved to a lectureship in biological sciences at what is now Liverpool Hope University. She became interested in the psychology of learning and undertook a range of leadership roles including Dean of Sciences and Social Sciences.

Helen moved to the University of Liverpool in 2006 to lead the HEFCE-funded Centre for Excellence in Teaching and Learning. The work of the centre helped to shape how medical professionalism is taught across medical schools in the UK. Her research focuses on the role of emotional intelligence in developing professionalism and leadership in doctors, and she was promoted to a Personal Chair in Medical Education in 2013. Her subsequent interested in how developments in digital education can support social learning as well as developing flexible, online and transnational education led to her appointment as Associate Pro Vice-Chancellor for Online Learning at Liverpool.

Helen is the Chair of the Board of Trustees of the Association for Leaning Technology (ALT). She is a member of UUK International’s Transnational Education Advisory Board, a member of the Advance HE Board and is Co-Convener of Advance HE’s DVC/PVC Network.

The Art of the Possible

Taking place 5-9 July, the Art of the Possible is a week of online events and activities including presentations, workshops, case studies, and the launch of the Newcastle University Learning and Teaching Podcast. Find out how you can get involved.

Online External Examiner Training

Starting this September, Newcastle University is working with Advance HE to offer online External Examiner Training. The training will run over two months and is aimed at aspiring, new, or experienced examiners. It will support you to:

  • understand the role of the external examiner as articulated in the UK Quality Code for Higher Education, and be confident to undertake it; 
  • develop a deeper understanding of the nature of academic standards and professional judgement, and explore the implications for external examining; 
  • use evidence-informed approaches to contribute to impartial, transparent judgements on academic standards and the enhancement of student learning. 

Participation in the course can be used as evidence towards gaining (Senior or Principal) Fellowship of the HEA. 

The course begins on Monday 13 September 2021. You will be guided to complete five units over two months. Each unit takes 2-3 hours to complete, and on the whole there are 4 hours of online contact with the team.

More information can be found in the External Examiner Training Poster.

Colleagues should register by Friday 16 July by completing this form.

Should you have any queries, do not hesitate to contact

Technology in Teaching: Reflect, Rethink, Repurpose

As the 2021 academic year is coming to an end, Newcastle University Technology Enhanced Learning Advocates (NUTELA) brought together a panel of colleagues to share:

  • Reflections on moving so swiftly to online teaching
  • Rethinking delivery with some examples
  • Re-purposing digital content for a blended approach

From practical tips on encouraging student participation to wider discussions around creating student connections, here are the highlights from the session.

How would you approach a flipped classroom?

Dr Ahmed Kharrufa, School of Computing describes how he successfully incorporated videos, reading materials, live sessions and practical activities into a relaxed weekly timeline.

Director of Digital Education Dr David Grundy gives an overview of the Canvas features he used to help students navigate through their course and shares some of the innovative new digital projects recently funded in the Business School.

As a guest lecturer on over 40 different modules, librarian Emily Dott brought a different perspective to the panel discussion. Sharing how a non-synchronous approach works for the library team, Emily reflects on what worked as well as the elements of synchronous sessions that aren’t as easy to replicate.

Integrating digital skills into courses can be challenging but is now more important than ever. Dr James Stanfield from the School of Education, Communication and Language Sciences, shares how the new module ‘Adventures in Digital Learning’ successfully addresses aspects of digital literacy. He also details how blogging can be a useful tool for reflective practice and shares ideas for increasing student connections next year.

If students could tell their lecturers one thing what would it be?

Dr Brook Galna shares some insights from Sport and Exercise Science students. From positive feedback about short, interactive lecture content to issues around access to technology, student reflections will have a real impact on next year’s teaching.

Find out more about NUTELA

NUTELA are group of academics, professional service staff and technicians, who care about improving learning and teaching at Newcastle University.

We have termly sessions focussing on technology in teaching. They’ve been a bit different this year but usually involve some pizza, pop and a chance to practice.

Microsoft Team

Join the NUTELA Team to continue the conversation about using technology in your teaching.  The Team includes resources, upcoming events and the chance to connect with colleagues across the University. NUTELA advocates are also on hand to answer any NUTELA related questions you might have.

All are welcome to join us.

Reflective Writing

Chris Whiting, Professional Development Adviser, Learning and Teaching Development Service

The importance of reflection and the importance of writing.

Learning is not exclusive to education. It is something we start engaging with as babies and will continue to engage with every day for the majority of our lives. It is, in many small ways, a daily activity and in these small ways goes unconsidered, like breathing. Acquiring new knowledge and skills may require us to consider how we are learning, but the developing and refining of knowledge and skills is often allowed to pass without a second thought.

David Kolb’s widely accepted theory of the experiential learning cycle (1984) presents learning in four stages: Concrete Experience; Reflective Observation; Abstract Conceptualisation; and Active Experimentation. Graham Gibbs’ (1988) Reflective Cycle expands on these four stages with six prompts that develop our thinking behind this learning experience: Description; Feelings; Evaluation; Analysis; Conclusion; Action Plan. Finlay (Finlay, 2008, 2003, Finlay and Gough, 2003) offers a comparable mode of thinking about reflection in three stages: Introspection; Critical Reflection; and Reflexivity. Finlay further emphasises the importance of progressing through the entire cycle so that reflections do not simply reaffirm current beliefs (introspection) or lack a productive outcome (introspection and critical thinking).

Image showing the elements of reflection described in the paragraph above

Whichever way you find most comfortable to think about reflection (and there are other modes and models available), a thorough and complete reflection of experience is a powerful tool to fuel, enhance and motivate your learning. As such, reflective skills are an essential aspect of developing autonomous learners so that they can guide and drive their learning within and beyond formal education.

But if reflection is a mental exercise then why do we need to write?

Essays, theses, compositions, experiments, etc… are all products of mental exercises but are not explicitly derived from them. That is to say, we do not write essays in our heads. We think, write, edit, think, write, edit… until we are satisfied (or we hit our deadline). Our thinking diverges and converges. The essay is a product of both thinking and writing, and it is through writing that it comes into being and is refined. As we write we enter into a learning experience. We read our words and ask ourselves: ‘are we happy with this?’; ‘does it say what it needs to say?’; ‘could it be improved?’ and we take actions based on our answers. The writing is therefore an extension of our thinking. It allows us to scrutinise our reflections in a way that it is extremely difficult to achieve as a mental exercise.

Further to this, thinking is a fleeting experience and only relevant to the moment. When the idea is committed in writing, it commits you to a reflexive action (more so than just thinking) and is a marker from which you can trace your learning and navigate in the direction that you are intending.

Finlay, L. 2003. The Reflexive Journey: Mapping Multiple Routes. In: Finlay, L. a. G., B. (ed.) Reflexivity. Oxford: Blackwell Publishing.

Finlay, L. 2008. Reflecting on ‘Reflective Practice’. Practice Based Professional Learning Centre. January 2008 ed. Milton Keynes: The Open University.

Finlay, L. & Gough, B. 2003. Reflexivity: A Practical Guide for Researchers in Health and Social Sciences, Wiley.

Gibbs, G. 1988. Learning by Doing: A Guide to Teaching and Learning Methods, FEU.

Kolb, D. 1984. Experiential Learning: Experience as the Source of Learning and Development, New Jersey, Prentice Hall.