Frontiers old and new

A lot awful lot of work has been going on behind the scenes following the University’s announcement of our partnership with FutureLearn to deliver free online courses, starting with our first course on Hadrian’s Wall.

We have  a great team in place for this, our first venture into MOOCs and we were really pleased to get “Team Hadrian” together for the first time on Friday.

You don’t have to be around Prof Ian Haynes and Dr Rob Collins for very long to appreciate their enthusiasm for Hadrian’s Wall and what it tells us of the rich picture of life on this Roman Frontier.  Our Digital Media Team (Stephen, Kevin, Helen and Dave) will be adding creative juices to bring relics and places to life; and Mike and Suzanne are on hand to pull it all together and offer advice on structure, narrative and engagement.

The day’s agenda covered a close look at the FutureLearn platform; discussion of filming practicalities; and a chance to further refine ideas on content to fit our goals and objectives.  As is fitting with a project involving new and ancient frontiers the team moved seamlessly between YouTube, GoogleDocs, BaseCamp and Post-it notes.


Visual Representation – proportional sizes

Sometimes it is more effective to represent figures in graphical form. One form of representation that is tricky to get right is proportional sizes of shape (square or circle) to illustrate the difference in size. For example, if you want to show one figure is twice the size of another, it is easy to create a circle that has a diameter twice as long as another, but this will be more than twice the volume, thus misrepresenting the difference.

The form at this link from think outside the box helps determine the correct relative size for shapes. You can then produce proportional shapes with an art package or PowerPoint to create your graphic.

This is one example showing the sizes of legions, cohorts and Centuries within the Roman army

Case Study: PDP and Reflective Learning on The Year Abroad

Dr Franck Michel, Lecturer in the School of Modern Languages provided this case study that details their use of ePortfolio as a reflective tool with the ‘Year Abroad ‘. You can see this case study below.

Please access the QuILT website to access more University case studies.

What did you do? I introduced the ePortfolio as a tool of personal development planning and reflective learning for SML students on their Year Abroad. The ePortfolio was also used to enhance communication and exchange between PTs and their tutees abroad.
Who is involved? QuiLT and the ePortfolio development team: Lydia Wysocki first helped me define the project. Helen Lowther then helped me develop it and Simon Cotterill supervised all the technical changes during the pilot phase. In the SML, I started with a team of 8 stage 3 students who volunteered to test the ePortfolio during their YA. Following this pilot study, I was awarded an Innovation grant from ULTSEC in order to develop the project on a school-wide scale. The pilot phase took place between 2011-12 and the full project has been running since September 2012. All SML UG PTs and Stage 3 students are now using the ePortfolio as a result of this project.
How do you do it? • I started a pilot study in 2011-12 with 8 volunteer stage 3 students who agreed to use the ePortfolio during their Year Abroad. I acted as their PT and communicated with them also via the ePortfolio
• Once I was awarded the UTLSEC grant, I hired two of my ‘pilot’ students to create short instructional/promotional videos aimed at stage 2 SML students. The videos were designed to explain to future students abroad what the ePortfolio was and what benefits they could gain from using it during their Year Abroad.
• With the help of Helen Lowther and Simon Cotterril, I then conducted a series of training meetings with SML staff to promote the ePortfolio and explain to colleagues how we planned to use it with students abroad.
• SML Stage 2 students were also trained on how to use the ePortfolio
• Over the course of AY 2012-13, I monitored the students’ use of the ePortfolio and collected staff and student feedback.
Why do you do it? I did it for various reasons:
• To enhance the quality of the students’ PDP whilst abroad. Evidence shows that SML students gain many professional and transferrable skills during the YA, but they are often not fully aware of the advantages this gives them in terms of employability. The aim of the ePortfolio was to give students abroad the opportunity to record the skills (professional, academic or personal) they acquired whilst abroad and reflect about the increased intercultural awareness they experienced during their period of residence abroad.
• To enhance the way Personal Tutors communicate with their tutees whilst they are abroad. The previous support and monitoring system was a little lifeless and bureaucratic. With the ePortfolio, the aim was to make interactions between PTs and tutees a bit more spontaneous, interactive and beneficial to the students’ development. The presence of a ‘community’ on the eportfolio also allows students to communicate with each other and share experiences, something they were not able to before.
Does it work? It’s still a bit early to tell but what I can say for now is that feedback –both from students and staff– has been really positive and there is a clear consensus that the new support system is much more convivial and interactive than the previous one. Evidence of peer support and genuine reflective practice could also be observed, although a more thorough study will be required to assess the real impact of this project on the students’ Personal Development process.

What is reflective practice?

There are substantial benefits in being a reflective student. Research shows that students who are reflective when learning will have a deeper understanding of their subject.

What does being reflective mean?

There is a lot of research around reflective learning.

David Kolb – Experiential Learning

David Kolb is an American educationalist whose work focuses on experiential learning. Experiential learning is learning that takes place from experiences. He developed a learning cycle that shows learning taking place initially from experiencing a situation, then reflecting on that situation, forming generalisations and concepts, and then applying the knowledge learned. (click the image to enlarge)

Kolb experiential learning cycle


Donald Schön – Reflection-in-action/Reflection-on-action

Reflection does not just take place after an event. Schon explained that reflection, albeit quick and less considered reflection, can take place during an event as well.

Graham Gibbs – Reflective Cycle

Gibbs expanded on Kolb’s experiental learning cycle. He described a structured debriefing process to enable reflection. (click the image to enlarge)

Graeme Gibbs Reflective Learning Cycle


Further reading:

Schön, D. (1983) The Reflective Practitioner, How Professionals Think In Action, Basic Books.

Kolb. D. A. and Fry, R. (1975) Toward an applied theory of experiential learning. in C. Cooper (ed.), Theories of Group Process, London: John Wiley.

Gibbs, G. (1988) Learning by doing: A guide to teaching and learning methods, Oxford Centre for Staff and Learning Development, . London: Further Education Unit.

Case Study: Personal Tutoring in Dental Sciences


James Field, Lecturer in Restorative Dentistry/Honorary StR in Prosthodontics, recently provided a case study that detailed the School of Dental Science’s use of ePortfolio to support personal tutoring. You can see this case study below.

Please access the QuILT website to access more University case studies.

What did you do? The school worked with MSED to develop an electronic portfolio that captures and records both clinical activity, and personal reflections for BDS students. The personal reflections are able to be tagged with domains, facilitating the construction of a personal development plan which forms the basis for each tutor meeting. Student concerns can be logged against individuals on the system by members of staff, and followed up with their personal tutor.
Who is involved? The eportfolio (iDentity) is used by all BDS students and staff
How do you do it? The portfolio is available online – we provide basic training for new staff. Students are encouraged to enter reflective logs into the system, guided by their clinical teachers or academic lecturers. Tutor meetings occur twice a year as a minimum, and a template online allows students to draw on reflections across the term in order to construct a SWOT analysis and personal development plan. Tutors can work through this and use it as a basis for discussion. It also allows tutors to set a number of action points or goals, with time-related boundaries that the students can sign off once completed.
Why do you do it? The system provides an opportunity for the students to engage with reflective practise, which forms an important part of their professional development. Once captured, it also allows them to draw on this information across the whole term to form a summary of their experiences. The system also facilitates the tutor meeting, making the content specific to that individual student and guiding the tutor towards any specific areas of concern.
Does it work? The system works very well, and our students are very supportive of it. It takes a while to engage effectively with reflective practise in the early clinical stages, but we now provide a fairly comprehensive introduction to reflection in Stage 2 which the students can build on throughout the remaining years.



‘What are MOOCs?’ Day presentations are now available online

The presentations made by the three speakers during the UNITE ‘What are MOOCs?’ Day are now available to watch online:  Suzanne Hardy’s presentation is open for anyone to view. Sian Bayne and Sheila MacNeill’s presentations are only available to Newcastle Staff and when prompted, staff should choose ‘Campus’ from the drop down list and then use their usual University user ‘id’ and ‘password’ to log in.

Sheila MacNeill – “So what are MOOCs? Histories, Pedagogies, Myths and the Media

Sian Bayne – “Why should we consider MOOCs? A University Perspective

Suzanne Hardy – “What is it actually like to do a MOOC? A Student Perspective

What are MOOCs? – 15th March 2013 10.00am – 2.45pm

Venue: Bamburgh Room, King’s Road Centre: Newcastle University

Massive Open Online Courses are an exciting recent development with great potential to change Higher Education. Staff with an interest in Distance and eLearning are invited to this UNITE event. The keynote speaker will be Sian Bayne, Associate Dean for Digital Scholarship at Edinburgh University.

To reserve your place, please complete our booking form.
Contact for queries:
Mike Cameron
Carol Summerside

Event Outline

10.00 – 10.15 Tea/ Coffee

10.15 – 10.30 Introduction – The Digital Campus, MOOCs and the current ‘state of playProfessor Tony Stevenson and – Pro-Vice Chancellor – Planning and Resources

10.30 – 11.15 So what are MOOCs? Histories, Pedagogies, Myths & the MediaSheila MacNeill, Assistant Director, JISC CETIS, University of Strathclyde

11.15 – 12.00 Why should we consider MOOCs: A University Perspective?
Sian Bayne: Edinburgh University: E-Learning & Digital Cultures

 12.00 – 12.45 –  LUNCH BREAK During which the attendees can post questions for the panel session at 1:45

12.45 – 1.30 What is it actually like to do a MOOC: A Student Perspective?
Suzanne Hardy (student on E-Learning & Digital Cultures at Edinburgh University)

1.30 – 1.45 Refreshments

1.45 – 2.30   The future of MOOCS/ E-Learning Panel Discussion
Where do we go next?’  Participants:  Tony Stevenson, Dave Wolfendale, Sian Bayne, Suzanne Hardy & Shelia MacNeill. Chaired by Iain Wheeldon

2.30-2.45 What Next: Wrap Up

UK Universities ‘face online threat’ says Pearson’s Chief Education Adviser, Sir Michael Barber

Sir Michael Barber, chief education adviser for Pearson, says online courses will be a “threat and opportunity” for the UK’s universities. Barber’s recent report ‘An Avalanche is coming’ is now available on line:

An avalanche is coming: Higher education and the revolution ahead Report (Michael Barber);

BBC report on Barber’s Report;

Links to MOOC related articles

Below are a few links to interesting blogs and relevant current articles for those attending The MOOCs event this Friday.

If you would like me to add any links/ promote interesting articles etc. then email me.

*Audrey Watters: The Year of The MOOC blog post

*Shelia MacNeill: Utopia, Dystopia, Technology Education & MOOCs

*Prime Minister welcomes Futurelearn expansion as British Library and five universities join

*Online University Giant Gets Bigger:

MOOC Event Panel Members & Call for Questions?

We will be exploring ‘The Future of MOOCs/ E-Learning in Universities’ during our panel session as part of our ‘What are MOOCs?’ event on Friday 15th March. If you would like to raise a question, please email the panel chair, Iain wheeldon at
The panel will be made up:
  • Sian Bayne Senior Lecturer Education, Community and Society (ECS)
  • Suzanne Hardy QuiLT, Newcastle University
  • Shelia Macneill Assistant Director, JISC CETIS, University of Strathclyde
  • Tony Stevenson Pro-Vice Chancellor –Planning & Resources, Newcastle University
  • Iain Wheeldon (Panel Chair), Senior Teaching Fellow, Chair of UNITE, Newcastle University
  • Dave Wolfendale Assistant Director Teaching, Learning & Research, Newcastle University