Reading group in LTDS

A little while ago we started a small reading group for colleagues in the Learning and Teaching Development Service to share ideas and discuss current issues and publications related to learning and teaching in Higher Education.

We set ourselves a couple of parameters to encourage engagement, as we had tried a journal club previously to not a great deal of success.

This time we decided to limit ourselves:

  • to things that could be read or digested in around less than half an hour
  • to try too keep the readings short and digestible
  • to keep the discussion sessions to 30 minutes
  • to use small groups for discussion of themes, impressions etc

Over the past few groups we have:

Our next group will explore microcredentials by looking at the recent QAA quality compass paper – which way for micro credentials.  

This will be the first meeting of a slightly expanded group which includes colleagues from FMS TEL .

We have one person running the group for 6 months (Me!) and I look after collating suggestions which come in from anyone who wants to suggest something. I try to have a range of different types of materials and cover a range of learning and teaching related viewpoints as our group has people who work in policy, practice, pedagogy, quality assurance, data and governance, professional development and all the intersections thereof.

Last time we listened to a radio programme about closed captions, which really made me think about how we approach captioning in HE. Some great ideas resulted from the session and it certainly got us talking!

AdvanceHE symposium 2023: Students as Co-creators: the emerging role of students as co-creators of their learning experience

Are you interested in student co-creation but unsure of the benefits, how to get involved or where to start?

Group of people

If so, you might be interested in reading my review of the recent AdvanceHE symposium on Student Co-creation, which includes highlights from the event, variations and benefits of student co-creation, scholarship and the student’s voice.

The day was packed with insightful, exciting and innovative talks from international colleagues and students across the HE Sector. There was such an exciting buzz in the air all day and you couldn’t help but admire the enthusiasm from students passionate about working with educators and developing agency in their own learning experiences.   

Keynote Speaker: Catherine Bovill, University of Edinburgh

The day began with Catherine talking passionately about ‘The transformational potential of co-creation from a classroom perspective both in person and online. She spoke of the many variations of student co-creation, highlighting some of her own research and scholarship along the way. Catherine shared a Co-creation of learning & teaching typology (Bovill 2019) which identifies how you might initiate co-creation, within what context and whether those sorts of activities are staff-led, student-led or both – some included in the table below:

Image of table of learning & teaching typology from Catherine's slides
Paper available from A co-creation of learning and teaching typology: What kind of co-creation are you planning or doing? (Bovill 2019)

Interestingly, this research mainly focused on students co-creating when they are already part of a programme or module – with activities such as co-creating assessments, designing essay questions or working with students to co-design what might be taught in coming weeks.

From the research undertaken by Catherine, and other scholars she mentioned, there are clearly a lot of benefits of student co-creation for students and staff, some of which I’ve noted below:

  • Increased student engagement and motivation for learning
  • Increased meta-cognitive awareness, sense of identity and belonging  
  • Enhancements in teaching and classroom experience
  • Enhanced academic performance
  • Transformation in assessment performance and less focus on grades and more on learning
  • Enhanced feelings of belonging, feeling valued
  • More culturally responsive and inclusive
  • Liberating for teachers
  • Increased confidence through relationship building and trust

For me that last point on relationship building and developing trust are the key ingredients to any form of curriculum co-creation, whether that’s student-staff co-creation or staff-staff co-creation, both require positive relationships but also build positive relationships – which then leads to all those other benefits above!

Bovill, C. (2020) Co-creating learning and teaching: towards relational teaching in higher education. St Albans: Critical Publishing.Bovill, C. (2019)

A co-creation of learning and teaching typology: what kind of co-creation are you planning or doing? International Journal for Students as Partners3 (2) 91-98:

Student Co-creation at Newcastle

As my role focuses on working with specific programme teams to redesign or design new curricula, I was interested in finding out how colleagues across the sector have engaged students in new programme design – a particular challenge when students aren’t already invested in the programme. I managed to catch Catherine during a coffee break to chat about this and was comforted that this isn’t just a challenge for us, it’s a sector-wide challenge. From our chat I’ve identified some approaches that we could use at Newcastle:

  • Extend Staff Student Committees (SSCs) to include curriculum design conversations
  • Involve your Student Union in discussions
  • Organise staff, student and graduate panel discussions as part of the curriculum review process
  • Provide money incentives – involve students from the outset through schemes such as Jobs on Campus
  • Provide other incentives – if the budget doesn’t stretch to Jobs on Campus, would a Digital Badge incentivise students to get involved? There is robust meta-data behind these badges that employers recognise as authentic
  • Gain recognition – Student co-creators often meet the criteria for Associate Fellowship of the Higher Education Academy (AFHEA)

What I realised from this symposium, and from being around all these enthusiastic students, is students are eager to get involved in shaping their own education. Student co-creation in any variation can have positive benefits not just for the students and educators but for the University as a whole.

Excitingly, we also had representation for Newcastle University at the AdvanceHE symposium. Helen Elliott, our Student Experience Manager and Meg Hardiman a second-year student in English Literature with Creative Writing, presented their work on  ‘Why Can’t Module Choice be More like Netflix?’

Image of Helen Elliott and Meg Hardiman presenting at the AdvanceHE symposium

Their work focused on finding out what information students need to make a confident choice during module selection. A student co-creation project that used Agile Methodologies.  

Here at Newcastle, we have some great examples of student co-creation:

Working in partnership: tackling sustainability challenges with a student-led virtual event

Co-design Sprint: An approach to engage students in the UN Sustainable Development Goals

Students as partners in learning

In LTDS we are working on developing support and guidance on student co-creation and would love to include some of your case studies, so if you have examples do get in touch  

Parallel sessions – what stood out!

There were of course many other motivating and interesting sessions at the Student Co-creation symposium. I was particularly inspired by the student co-creation examples from The University of Manchester, and the University of Dundee.

Dr Nicholas Weise (Senior Lecturer / Teaching & Learning Enhancement Lead –Department of Chemistry) shared their approach to co-creating the curriculum with Commuter students (a student group that has lower rates of progression and success than other student groups) so that they feel less isolated, feel seen and heard and are able to engage in more social and networking opportunities. Through a flipped teaching environment students were given the opportunity to co-design active learning sessions and have a voice in designing aspects of the curriculum, such as learning outcomes, lecture content, and formative and summative assessments. What really caught my attention was how they rewarded and recognised student contributions.  The University of Manchester has set up a programme, the Leadership in Education Awards Programme (LEAP) for all students (UG, PGT and PGR) and is supporting students, involved in co-designing curriculum, to gain recognition as Associate Fellowship of the Higher Education Academy (AFHEA).  

Dr James Brooks (Senior Lecturer in Electrical Engineering and the Academic Lead for Pedagogy within Science and Engineering) at Manchester University talked about student involvement in co-designing a course from scratch with student partners. The extent of the involvement in the co-design had real positive impacts on the students, their experience and their grades. James’ students gave summaries of past material in the lectures, live constructive criticism of the lecture, and formal and informal peer feedback on assessments. They co-designed the marking criteria in the lectures, specified the grade descriptors in the lectures and created learning materials to evidence their learning – some really great examples of engaging students in their own learning experiences and assessments!

Dr Paul Campbell (Physics Division, University of Dundee) perhaps won the award for the most innovative and fun example of student co-creation (there wasn’t actually an award for that but he’d of won, I’m sure 😊). Inspired some time ago by The Apprentice, students on a Physic module are tasked with working in groups (typically of 5 or 6 students) to:

  • Develop a 4/5 minute YouTube video that ‘informs, educates and entertains’* on one aspect of this module.
  • Exercise represents 10% of the overall module score.
  • Hard deadline set at the last scheduled class slot of that 11 week academic term.
  • Marking scheme provided [including a peer assessment component].
  • Students then take complete creative control.  

Students really got creative with these videos and had lots of fun, and the benefits were clear, including:

  • Improved Subject Attainment.
  • Enhanced Student Experience.
  • Enhanced employability (URL link to CV).
  • Cultivation of true team working and identification of distinct employment roles.

There are also a lot of benefits for educators:

  • Improved attainment.
  • Inexpensive in terms of facilitation of kit and time investment.
  • Fabulous recruitment tool.
  • Facilitates true insight to both academic and character traits that serve towards generating accurate job references with demonstrable excellence.
  • Also serves towards the development of rapport and enhanced confidence in the senior phase

Take look at one of the videos on Youtube and see what you think!

Thanks for taking the time and reading my blog post on student co-creation. Please get in touch if you are interested in chatting about student co-creation or in sharing your practice!

Michelle Barr, Learning Design & Curriculum Development Advisor (LTDS)

Students evaluate using Inspera for 21/22 Digital Exams

Inspera Assessment, the University’s system for centrally supported digital exams, launched for the 21/22 academic year. A key part of understanding how we better use digital exams is to consider ways to improve the student experience of taking a digital exam. Following the launch, the Learning and Teaching Development Service (LTDS) asked for student feedback from those who took a digital exam in 21/22.

142 students submitted their feedback.

Here are our findings:

65% of students were somewhat or very satisfied with their overall experience of taking their exam using Inspera.

A pie chart titled ‘How satisfied are you with the experience of taking your exam(s) using Inspera?’ depicts that students reflected their experience(s) as:
1. Very dissatisfied 11%.
2. Somewhat dissatisfied 14%.
3. Neither satisfied nor dissatisfied 10%.
4. Somewhat satisfied 30%.  
5. Very satisfied 35%.
Results of the Inspera Student Evaluation

How easy is Inspera to use?

81% of students found starting their Inspera exam somewhat or very easy.

80% of students found handing in/submitting their Inspera exam somewhat or very easy.

When asked to compare a written exam paper and an Inspera paper which included written questions where students could type their answers, 63% of students stated they found it somewhat or much better using Inspera.

Is Inspera better for Take Home or on Campus PC cluster exams?

85% of students were somewhat or very satisfied with their overall experience of using Inspera for their take home exam(s).

73% of students were somewhat or very satisfied with their overall experience of using Inspera for their PC Cluster exam(s).

Thoughts for the future

Inspera seems to be a hit with students overall; the experience of using it is largely positive, with Inspera Take Home papers gaining the highest satisfaction scores. PC Cluster Inspera exam satisfaction scores showed the majority of students were satisfied with their overall experience. Feedback clearly indicated many students felt re-editing written answers works well in Inspera (and is better than trying to edit paper based written exams).

The most common concern raised was around plagiarism. LTDS is keen to work with colleagues to alleviate student concerns and ensure that the provision is developed and supported going forward.

LTDS opened its provision for digital exams to all modules, and the number of planned digital exams for 22/23 has increased.

To better support students before their exam, the LTDS recommend students practise with Inspera. Our survey showed 60% of students tried at least one demo before their main exam; we’d like to get that figure up! Practice exams can help with learning to use the tool and they are accessible via Canvas.

Try it out:

Student Inspera Demo Course

2023 National Teaching Fellowship and Collaborative Awards for Teaching Excellence Scheme: Internal application process now open

We are pleased to announce the launch of the University process to determine our nominees for the 2023 National Teaching Fellowship (NTF) and Collaborative Award for Teaching Excellence (CATE) Scheme.

​The NTF Scheme is a highly prestigious award celebrating excellent practice and outstanding achievement in learning and teaching in higher education. The awards support professional development in learning and teaching and provide a national focus for institutional teaching and learning excellence schemes. The CATE awards celebrate collaborative work that has had a demonstrable impact on teaching and learning.

In previous years, Newcastle University has had 16 NTFs awarded and three CATE award winning teams. Read more from previous year’s National Teaching Fellows and CATE award winners.

Nominations are welcomed from all members of staff who feel their/their team’s work has a major, positive impact on student teaching and learning. Staff and teams who would like to be considered need to submit a maximum of 1000 words which address the following criteria:

  • Your personal practice/Your team’s practice and why this should be recognised as outstanding
  • Your/your team’s impact on colleagues, both internally and externally
  • Your reflection on the above.

Nominations should be sent electronically to by 12pm on Friday 11 November 2022.

Find out more
Full information is available on the Learning and Teaching @ Newcastle website. You can also sign up to a webinar for more information and the opportunity to ask questions about the scheme. For any questions, please get in touch with

New to NU Reflect: structured reflective templates

Example of Templates area of NU Reflect

You told us that reflective templates would help you to make more of students’ learning. Structured reflective templates give students prompts to enable them to record their learning and add tags that will help look back and build up a portfolio of learning to demonstrate competencies, knowledge and skills that secure that next step.

Following demand from colleagues and students, and a successful pilot in academic year 2021/22, structured reflective templates will be available within NU Reflect from the 1st August 2022. The Templates area will allow you to create bespoke reflective templates or choose from predefined templates, to support structured student reflection within your programme/module contexts. 

Each template will offer guidance text to support students to write qualitative, impactful reflections in different context, e.g., for personal development, against course specific competencies, etc., providing a meaningful way to engage with reflection, leading to a developed understanding of the reflective process and more autonomy to engage with it throughout the learning journey. 

More information on the Templates area of NU Reflect is available on the Learning and Teaching @ Newcastle website. Case studies from pilot participants highlighting the positive impact the templates had on teaching and learning will be available soon.

If you would like to find out more about how you can implement reflective practice within your programmes/modules, please contact  

Learning Analytics system usability testing

Are you interested in using student engagement data to support the student learning journey?

The University has entered a tender process to acquire a Learning Analytics system that informs and supports students’ attainment, engagement, and wellbeing journeys in one centralised interface, putting students at the heart of decision-making about their ongoing development.

We are looking for volunteers to take part in usability testing as part of the system procurement process. Testing will take place between 1st August to 12th August 2022, and you can complete the testing tasks at any time over this period.

If you are interested and have capacity to participate, your contribution will be a key part of the evaluation stage of the tender process and will have a direct impact on which Learning Analytics system the University introduces from next academic year.   

Usability testing is open to all University colleagues. To participate you need to commit to test all systems that meet the University’s mandatory requirements, which we estimate may be between 2 and 4 systems, to ensure that the evaluation process is fair. We will be able to confirm the number of systems being tested the week before testing begins.   

Full instructions will be provided for each testing task, and you can complete the tasks at any time that suits your schedule over the usability testing period.

To register your interest please complete this form by Wednesday 27th July 2022.  Please contact with any queries. 

Learning and Teaching Conference: Review

Education for All: Learning Together

The Newcastle University Learning and Teaching Conference took place on March 31. This year’s theme was all about learning together, sharing effective practice, and exploring an education for all.

The event was opened by Professor Tom Ward, PVC Education, and was followed by a keynote presentation from Professor Paul Ashwin, Professor of Higher Education and Head of Department for Educational Research at Lancaster University.

As a result of the fantastic response to our call for submissions we ran several parallel sessions throughout the day, including over 40 workshops, lightning talks and presentations. Video recordings of the event presentations are now available to view via ReCap.

Conference poster and video winners
A massive congratulations to Ashley Reynolds and Eleanor Gordon who won our video competition with their demonstration of how animations can be used to enhance teaching and learning, and to Anna Reid and Vicky Gilbert who won our poster competition with Learning dogs; a winning ‘pawtnership’.

Thanks also to everyone who entered and voted for our winners. All posters are still available to view and video submissions are available in a ReCap playlist.

Conference feedback needed
If you attended the conference, or if you registered but were unable to attend, we would greatly appreciate your thoughts and feedback. This will help us improve our Learning and Teaching Conferences in the future.

Education for All: Learning Together, Learning and Teaching Conference 

31 March 2022, Frederick Douglass Centre 

Join us for this year’s conference to celebrate learning and teaching and share ideas across the University.  We can’t wait to come together, in-person, for those much-missed opportunities to catch up over coffee and we can promise a fantastic lunch.  

Come along to: 

  • Hear from Paul Ashwin, Professor of Higher Education and Head of the Department of Educational Research at Lancaster University who will deliver the keynote ‘What is a university education for?’ 
  • Get involved in interactive workshops. 
  • Be inspired by approaches to assessment, wellbeing, student voice, changing practices and much more. 

The full programme will be ready early March so keep an eye on the conference website. There’s also lots of opportunities to get involved online and we’ll be sharing which sessions you can take part in on the website. 

All colleagues and students are invited to attend. Colleagues can book here and students can book here.

If you have any questions please don’t hesitate to get in touch  

Learning Communities Toolkit

Students around a table

Working alongside student interns, Newcastle University HaSS colleagues have developed a new Learning Communities toolkit – a range of accessible and reusable ice-breaker and community-building resources. Available via Canvas Commons, this toolkit is ideal for educators looking for ways to encourage and facilitate effective learning communities within their module groups.

Why is a learning community needed?
Developing a learning community amongst a group of students can be hugely beneficial. Not only does it provide students with the opportunity to come together in a safe place to share opinions and ask questions, but it also allows them to feel a sense of belonging and connection with other students (this is particularly useful where minority groups are concerned). Learning communities also provide academic benefits: encouraging attendance at lectures, active engagement, and group collaboration. This toolkit provides a range of ideas to get you started and support you along the way in the development of your learning community.

How to use this toolkit
We’ve published our Learning Communities toolkit on Canvas Commons to make it easy to find, download and reuse in your own courses. To help you find activities quickly, we have organised them into three separate categories: Icebreakers, Building Community Activities, and Maintaining Community Activities.

You can preview and download the toolkit here:

Free stuff for Newcastle University …

Ok, now I’ve hopefully got some attention … (honestly, this post doesn’t take too long to get to the ‘free stuff’ bit).

Perhaps one of less noticed, but still in some ways important, elements of the huge changes in the English higher education sector over the last four years has been the changes for some long-established sector agencies. QAA lost what was in effect its role as the lead national agency in England for academic quality and standards, and has reinvented itself (including a very significant slimming down) as a membership organisation. The Higher Education Academy, Equality Challenge Unit and Leadership Foundation for Higher Education combined forces to become AdvanceHE.

So what?

Good question. One of the things it has meant is that QAA and AdvanceHE have now put huge amounts of their resources behind what amounts to a paywall – if your university’s not a member you’re not getting in. The good news for Newcastle staff is that the University is a signed-up member of both QAA and AdvanceHE, so you can access both organisation’s resources using your Newcastle email address.

So why would you sign up?

Well QAA’s an interesting one. There’s a range of membership services, including both resources (for example some Advice on Digital Assessment Security written by a group that LTDS was a member of) and events (including a webinar in July at which LTDS presented).

The bit that’s interesting is that having become a membership organisation there’s been a bit of a shift in terms of the kind of things the Agency is doing. The five themes of the membership programme for 2021-22 ( ) are: the future of digital and blended learning; creating inclusive learning communities; global engagement and TNE; evaluation and data-based decision making; and securing academic standards.

So a lot of the kind of thing you might expect QAA to do, but quite a lot that might make you think ‘I didn’t’ know QAA were interested in that’. Some of this is open access; other areas you’ll need to register to get access to (but it doesn’t take long – the form is at and all you need is your NU email address).

There are a small number of QAA resources we don’t have access to (it’s like a gym with levels of membership, and we didn’t go for the maximalist option), but there’s still a lot of valuable stuff up there that you can access for free.

(And while I’m talking about QAA, one of its best kept secrets, at least this side of Hadrian’s Wall, is the great work QAA Scotland has been doing for years under its Enhancement Themes banner. There’s lots of interesting and valuable material on this website – The current Enhancement Theme is Resilient Learning Communities, but past themes like Evidence for Enhancement and Student Transitions are well worth a look as well. And again, it’s all free).

It’s a similar deal with AdvanceHE. There’s a huge amount of valuable material available (and their Knowledge Hub database is a good way to access this), across lots of areas -including learning and teaching, but also around EDI as well as leadership and management. AdvanceHE’s programme for 2021-22 is available at .

Again all you need is your NU email address to access the site and its resources. One thing to look out for though is that while there’s a lot of things you can access for free, there’s also quite a bit of AdvanceHE activity (particularly events) that are chargeable. People at NU get a member’s rate, but there’s still a fee for quite a bit of what they’re offering.

So there’s a lot on offer. A lot of it supports areas that we’re strongly committed to as a University and as individuals. It’s worth a look. And (lots of it) is free.

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