“Technology Enhanced”

If I want to write,, I can use a pen or type it in some form using computer/tablet/phone – is this technology enhanced writing?  Or is it just writing?

In my view technology is something to be adopted if it is right, fitting and appropriate to the task.  If that is the case then it just becomes the way we do things.  Say I want to “share photos” – in 1983 I would get them developed at Boots, put them in a sticky album and inflict them on unsuspecting family and visitors.  The thought of doing this in 2018 is laughable.  Sharing photos is something you do digitally.  I still use the same language  “sharing photos” but what we now understand by that phrase has changed.  I wouldn’t dream about talking about “technology enhanced photo sharing”.

You’ll imagine from this that I really dislike the term “Technology Enhanced Learning”.

  • If the tech-way is the best way the technology becomes invisible. At some point in the future  – e-submission is just going to be the way we do “submission” and e-marking is just going to become marking.  (Forcing the adoption of immature tech creates agro.)
  • If you’ve worked in education for any time, there is a good chance you’ve had some form of post-traumatic stress from badly behaving technology that has ruined a session, it’s all too easy to jump on “shiny” and force it into the classroom (or VLE).  We need to be more critical about whether the technology *will* add or detract.
  • Lots of the so called TEL is actually e-administration. Take a tool like WebPA – it gives group members on-line forms to evaluate each other and works out a peer score. Here all the tech tool is doing is the drudgery of collating, counting and presenting the scores.  It’s doing the background admin for the peer assessment task.  In my view this is a sensible way to administer the process.  The clever bit comes in how you frame the group task, how you introduce it to students, how you interpret the results and whether it is a good fit for your programme aims.  Doing this well is all about the skill of the academic lead, WebPA is the administrative enabler.
  • We need to think about the investment and payback. Technology (apps, devices, systems) have learning curves. It’s all too easy to be hijacked by this learning curve and lose sight of the actual learning that is our focus.  Tools and tech needs to be “frictionless” or easy enough to learn so that there is a real payback.  Talk to any academics involved in teaching – time is not something they have in abundance.

Critical quadrants

Now, neatly sidestepping the debate on “learning gain” let’s imagine we could graph “improved learning” (for students) against academic time.

 More academic timeLess academic time
Enhanced learningB
Diminished learningCD  

We get 4 quadrants – C is the one to avoid at all costs – and sadly it’s easy to come up with a scenario that fits here.  Prof Smith spends weeks developing an online simulation exercise that bombs with the students.  Dr Jones runs a one off webinar and the time is taken up with “can you hear me?” Result: It’s mothballed, never to return.   I’ve used tech examples here, but let’s face it this grid is tech neutral.  You could get in this quadrant just as easily by developing lecture materials pitched at completely the wrong level or by having to work with bad systems that gobble up time and leave your creative energies depleted!

If we leave technology in the mix B is perhaps the only one that could potentially qualify as being “technology enhanced”… students learn extra stuff and the academic gains time.  You may get here after you’ve been through a learning curve with online marking.  You spend less time, but students get richer feedback.

Living in quadrant A is only something you can do for a short time. It’s easy to see how you could be here – you could have more meetings with students, smaller group sizes in seminars (more seminars), you could make short supplemental videos, you could develop a multi-choice quiz that helps students revise key topics.  You need to be selective about what you do in here, and may want to venture in for short sprints if you can make gains elsewhere.  Notice that my examples aren’t all about Tech.  Any redevelopment or redesign work can bring you here.

Technology and automation in the extreme can take us into sector D – standard or no responses, little chance for interaction, impoverished experiences.  A mentor-free MOOC won’t deliver a campus based experience.

Where Tech is e-administration it sits somewhere along the x-axis – depending on whether it is students or faculty doing the processes.  Online Module choices e-administration.

My point – let’s drop TEL as a phrase.  It’s meaningless.  Instead let’s consider what works, what is effective teaching – let’s use technology if it helps.  But please don’t call it TEL.


This post provoked by:Sian Bayne (2015) What’s the matter with ‘technology-enhanced learning’?, Learning, Media and Technology, 40:1, 5-20, DOI: 10.1080/17439884.2014.915851Kirkwood, Adrian and Price, Linda (2014). Technology-enhanced learning and teaching in higher education: what is ‘enhanced’ and how do we know? A critical literature review. Learning, Media and Technology, 39(1) pp. 6–36.

Blended Learning 101

Here are a few practical tips on getting started.

Bling it up

Our institutional VLE Blackboard can be made to look more interesting.  It’s down to you…

  • add images to items
  • think about what you can embed – Video, Slideshare, Polls and quizzes
  • Add links to discussion boards – and if you use these make sure you have time to contribute and set the tone (be a good cocktail party host at the start).  Create an introductory post on each discussion board – it’s far too scary to be the first one who posts.


Make the journey really clear on your course and use weekly emails/announcements to reinforce what’s to be done and reflect on what’s been good.  Use one of the new module templates based on our Blackboard baseline so that students get a consistent experience.

If you include a link to a document tell the students what you want them to do with it – read it? skim it? make notes on specific points? focus on pp 14-19?

Include some getting started material – how the course is organised,  how to get help, how to subscribe to discussion boards (so you get notified when someone posts!)….

Set expectations of how much time student should spend on sections of the material, so that they know what are the essential parts and don’t burn out on the introductory elements.


If you are going to be making any videos think about where you are going to host them.  You can then include them on Blackboard with links or embed code.  We have a few choices:

Once you have the video hosted make sure you add your captions so that these play in the embedded player.

Making videos

If you don’t want to spend money – you can make great narrated powerpoints, talking heads or screen captures without spending money…

  • Use ReCap personal capture – talk to LTDS about getting a pCap folder set up, get the software installed and have a hand to get stared
  • Use Powerpoint to record your slides (Slide Show/record slide show),  or use it to do a screen recording (insert/screen recording), then Save As mp4

If you have a longer lead time and need some professionally produced media get in touch with our crack Digital Media Services team.

Recording Audio

Have a smartphone?  Use a “sound recorder” app on your phone to record an audio track. Or you could download and use Audacity to record and edit yourself!  You can upload audio to ReCap and NUVision.   On ReCap you can add bookmarks (eg three views on one question).

Polls and Quizzes

Blackboard quizzes can look a bit scary, so if your questions are formative and you don’t need to know who answered what you can use Google Forms or Microsoft Forms to make a quiz.  Then you can embed the quiz, provide a link to it (or both), and share the results back.

Prototype and Get feedback

Ask colleagues or students to comment on your initial designs: does it work? Does it make sense? Is it clear what you are being asked to do?  Are the discussion spaces inviting?

Talk to colleagues

Shamelessly pick the brains of colleagues who have done similar projects! You will have more ideas together.

Talk to LTDS for “how-to” support on Blackboard, ReCap, ePortfolio and for tips on designing your learning materials.

Connect with NUTELA and join in their workshops and community (there is free pizza and pop).