Latest Event Updates

PIP workshop: Feedback, Alan Marsh

Posted on Updated on

Pedagogy in Practice (PIP) workshop, 14.2.17

This session was led by Alan Marsh, the Programme Lead and Senior Lecturer for Radiation Protection in the Department of Science, Natural Resources and Outdoor Studies.

This session looked at the NSS questions on feedback and it was clear students on the Radiation Protection programme felt the feedback they received was insufficient, and lacking detailed comments. The programme team couldn’t understand this as they devote a lot of time to providing feedback so it appeared students were not recognising it as feedback. These students tend to be mature students, returning to learning after some time so the idea of feedback and how to use it to feed-forward can require a change in approach.

The participants discussed this and their own experiences of students mis-understanding the purpose of feedback, along with what feedback is.

PIP feedback session
What is feedback?

The Oxford English Dictionary  defines feedback as (one of three, others to do with process and electrical signals):

Information about reactions to a product, a person’s performance of a task, etc. which is used as a basis for improvement.

It was agreed the main point for feedback is to provide a basis for improvement. Other suggestions for what feedback is included: to indicate to students if they are on target to pass; formative;  timely; formal and informal.

Participants shared the various ways they provide feedback, including written and recorded. Alan discussed his experiences of using these different approaches and the importance of preparing students to be able to use the feedback provided.

Strategies for how to ensure students understand feedback should be used to feed-forward were explored, with a suggestion of including an area for improvement each time to focus the student to this area of development.

Alan also discussed some recent literature on this topic, which is summarised along with notes from the session.

Kolb, 1982; Brockbank, 1998; Ramsden, 2003; Irons, 2007; Norton, 2007 (to name but a few) recognize that feedback on assignments can contribute to improving the quality of the student learning experience. Ramsden, 2003, in particular for example (page 187) highlights that “It is impossible to overstate the role of effective comments on students’ progress in any discussion of effective teaching and assessment”.

Carless, 2015 talks about the three interrelated processes of :-

  • Learning oriented assessment tasks for students;
  •  Students development of self-evaluative capacities;
  • Student engagement with feedback.

Hattie, 2009 claims that learning becomes visible when teachers are also learners  and helping students to become their own teachers. Providing adequate feedback is an important aspect.

Boud & Molloy (2013b) developed and analysed two models of feedback:-

  •  The first positions teachers as the drivers of feedback (derived from the original concept of feedback from the applied sciences – unilateral approach);
  •  The second draws on the idea of sustainable assessment, in which learners have a key role in driving learning and so generating their own feedback – bilateral or multilateral approach which positions students as active learners.

Parker & Winstone (2016) presented students with 10 possible feedback interventions, which seemed to indicate that students believe (or they perceive) they lack the skills required to engage with interventions; they make some recommendations as to how to frame such interventions to promote stronger student engagement.

If you have some examples of how you are helping students understand feedback and how you are linking feedback to feed-forward, do get in touch to share your practice,

References / further reading

Boud, D. & Molloy, E. (2013a) Feedback in Higher and Professional Education: Understanding it and doing it well. London: Routledge

Boud, D. & Molloy, E. (2013b) ‘Rethinking models of feedback for learning: the challenge of design’  J. of Assessment & Evaluation in HE, 38(6), pp. 689-71

Carless, D (2015) ‘Exploring learning-oriented assessment process’, Higher Education: The International Journal of Higher Education Research,  69(6), pp. 963-976

Parker, M. & Winstone, N.E. (2016) ‘Students perceptions of interventions for supporting their engagement with feedback’, Practictioner Research in Higher Education, 10(1) pp. 53-64

Ramsden, P. (2003) Learning to Teach in Higher Education. 2nd edn. London: Routledge Falmer

ELESIG NW “Seek, Gather, Explore”. 15 March

Posted on Updated on

The ELESIG (Evaluation of Learners’ Experiences of e-learning Special Interest Group) North West group meet at Liverpool John Moores University on 15th March.


This was an afternoon event, which began with Dr Amanda Mason & Jim Turner from LJMU feeding back about a project to set-up and run a virtual Journal Club.

Dr Rod Cullen from Manchester Metropolitan University then discussed how they had used data from a student survey to gain some insight into students experience of TEL. A greater level of consistency across the student experience was a key finding – the most vocal reports were often when a student had a good experience on one course and a poor experience on another.

Other themes emerging were communications (clarity around how often & when to respond, for example), VLE content & organisation (timeliness of content, clarity of purpose, organisation, etc.), and an interactive teaching & learning experience (a desire to be involved in learning & teaching, not just passive recipients of information). Most of the issues were around learning design, rather than the technology. One idea was for better discussions with students regarding expectations with technologies, and how they can/should be used in their studies.

Daniel Roberts and Tunde Varga-Atkins from the University of Liverpool discussed a minimum standards VLE baseline. They found that the staff who were aware of the baseline, were generally positive about it, but didn’t want it to be too prescriptive, whilst 95% of students surveyed felt that a baseline was important – again, highlighting the need for consistency (students reported less provision on the VLE than staff thought they were providing).

Ashwini Datt from the University of Auckland then talked about a couple of MOOCs her university had developed and run. She discussed the idea of MOOC blending – where some of the resources for the MOOC were used in “on-campus” courses.

Professor Rhona Sharpe from Oxford Brookes University then discussed “rising to the challenge of education in the digital age”. She talked about the diverse ways that learners respond to technologically rich environments, and how it is difficult to generalise.

She felt that learner voices were important, as the student experience is a strategic priority, however internal systems can be slow to adapt to rapid technology changes.

Currently, the focus is on blended learning, digital literacy, distance learning & MOOCs. The goal is to prepare learners for the digital world; a global, networked society. Users need to be confident users of a range of technologies for personal, academic and professional use.

As with most of the speakers, consistency was again seen as vital. Curriculum redesign was happening with multi-disciplinary teams to help ensure consistency and embedding of digital skills. A mapping exercise using the Jisc NUS Benchmarking Tool was also mentioned.

A very useful session, highlighting again a number of key areas that can help support the student experience and develop vital digital skills.

Skype for Business Webinars with Turnitin and PebblePad

Posted on Updated on

In March 2017, the Learning technology Team in AQD, needed to facilitate two webinars for  Turnitin and Pebblepad as they were showcasing the system changes due to be rolled out over the summer of 2017.

As the external companies were only visiting the Lancaster campus, we wanted to include staff from other campuses/locations as the enhancements were fairly significant and as a picture paints a thousand words, we could easily share the presentations via the “Present Desktop” option over the network during the meeting.

With Skype for Business being readily available to all staff, and having proved itself to be reliable in terms of audio quality and in its simplicity, it was an easy decision to make when considering a webinar software solution.

The benefits of Skype for Business when arranging an online meeting are

  • Ability to create from Microsoft Outlook
  • Easy to invite attendees
  • Meeting reminders are generated.
  • Works across multiple mobile devices
  • Reduces the need to travel
  • Attendees do not need the Skype for Business client installing (They may however, need to install a plugin for the browser)
Outlook invitation – Skype for Business











During the meetings we used Revo X tag microphones which are available from IT Services.

Xtag microphone

They’re very easy to set up and the audio quality is great, picking up the presenter without any of the surrounding audible distractions. However, you can just as easily present from your workplace with the use of a headset and built in microphone. If you don’t have one, you can request one from IT Services.

Both of the events were well attended with around 40 members of staff attending in the rooms and around 20 online of which none reported any issues with the audio or when the presenters shared their desktops to show the enhancements being rolled out over the summer.

Our only lesson learnt was in the way we hoped to improve the experience during the Q&A’s, as we wanted to use more than 1 microphone during the Q&A’s. Unfortunately Skype for Business only allows 1 microphone per presenter, so we had to have another laptop in the room, with another presenter, which on the day, failed due to the Wireless Network going off, rendering the additional laptop useless during the set up. As such, we were restricted to time constraints and couldn’t fully test before the meeting.  So, always plan, check, check and check.

That aside, both meetings went very well, Skype for Business remained stable, the audio quality was great, and sharing the desktop with the audience over the network was effortless, so from a teaching and learning perspective, staff are be able to create an online meeting with students regardless of where they are or what device/PC they’re using and it should just work.

AQD have previously tested a Skype for Business meeting with a member of the South West Ambulance Trust. The participant was based in Devon and was able to connect with an iOS device on a wireless network, yet still produced very clear video and audio.









Jisc Digital Student Project (Jisc, March 17)

Posted on Updated on

Jisc has recently circulated the following update regarding their Digital Student Project –

“As part of the Jisc Digital student project, we have recently carried out interviews with 12 students from across further education and skills, higher education and with learners who are studying online.

The Digital learner stories are inspirational stories from learners sharing their experiences of how technology has supported their educational journeys.

It is hoped that these learner stories will:

  • inspire and encourage learners to try new things
  • showcase the rich diversity of digital practices available to learners
  • demonstrate the importance of supporting digital learning practices in all their diversity
  • argue for investment in digital access, on the basis that this make a real difference to learning outcomes
  • encourage teaching staff to develop a range of approaches, and to work with students to fully exploit the technologies available for learning
  • offer evidence to decision makers about how technology is supporting learners and enhancing their educational journey

A report compiling all the themes arising from these interviews and building on the work of the Digital student project as a whole will be published shortly.”

CASE STUDY SERIES: Alison Hampson Head of Department, Health,Psychology and Social Studies

Posted on Updated on

Digital Health Modules: A Unique Approach to Module Development

Following the successful first delivery, Andrea Charters (AQD) interviewed Alison Hampson about her experience of designing and delivering the innovative Digital Health modules.

The Digital Health modules were a brand new delivery intended to give an in-depth understanding of how technology can be used to support health and/or social care outcomes. The modules were designed to support the fast developing area of Digital Health within the NHS, and are aimed at individuals interested in developing technology within the health and social care arena.

Alison felt that, the “digital nature of the modules required the wider use of available technologies as, in my view, if you are going to encourage people to use digital health what better way to get them thinking in that direction than experiencing and taking part in digital learning”.

However, the subject was so large that Alison didn’t feel that any one person had all the required skills, and thus, she believed she would get much better results from an interdisciplinary team approach using the expertise of different people. Alison was particularly keen to include the services of an AQD Learning Technologist as I she wanted to deliver a module which was both cutting edge and demonstrated our expertise to enhance the student experience.

“The team approach proved to be very successful and we delivered the modules using various formats” such as:

  • Videos uploaded to a discussion board; each student created a short film sharing their reasons for joining the module and future plans for development which were uploaded to a discussion board for comment by tutors and peers
  • External presenters recorded via Skype for Business uploaded to Medial and streamed via Blackboardskype
  • Instructor-only discussion board for team communication
  • The application of a template design, ensuring consistency across all modulestemplate
  • Staff discussion board; capturing comments from students and reflections on deliveries i.e. lessons learnt
  • Lectures were recorded and uploaded to Blackboard

This, in turn, developed individual team members’ confidence and experience of using different approaches and delivery methods.

Q. It was rewarding to see how ideas were developed and translated into actions, and new approaches embraced, what was the enabling factor?

The support we received; talking theoretically about the types of technology available is really interesting but getting it into operation is where you (AQD) have really helped us. The team may have had an idea but you have been able to give us the mechanism to translate ideas into action and advise us how to do it. For example, students uploading the videos they had taken on their phone to the Blackboard site via a discussion board, because you have the expertise on exactly how that was done you wrote the guidance and uploaded it to Blackboard. This made it much easier and we can now do that in future modules, the information you created can be reused.

Q. I have noticed that some members of the team are expanding the experience with digital health into their own modules.

I took on this module in this context because of the opportunities to learn from each other and for the benefits it would bring to everyone, myself included. We had people in the team that were used to working with you and your service so were motivated to take that further, we had people in the team who haven’t done as much face to face teaching and people who have got less experience of digital health.

It was also an opportunity to update my own knowledge of running a module which is good for me as a Head of Department in terms of future developments, I can now take forward ideas and bring digital technology to the forefront of my mind when considering future opportunities.

Q. Is this a format that can be used across all programmes, not just when the topic is around digital health

Definitely, I have discussed this with one of the team and we consider this to be an almost best practice approach as it’s the whole team working together, developing ideas, applying various delivery methods and evaluating outcomes.

It’s a model that I’m sure we would all love to roll out across all the modules due to the benefits, however consideration should be given to:

  • Appropriate level of team communication/time constraints
  • Workload balancing model – will the hours be accurately reflected?
  • Team agreed working methods

I do believe this would be an effective approach for modules running for the first time, for example following validation.

Student feedback on the modules has been very positive, and engaging with the technology has built their confidence. They have commented very, very positively on the different things we’ve used such as Skype for Business for the presentations. Skype For Business has probably allowed us to have a better range of presentations as we wouldn’t have been able to get the experts into the classroom. It’s thrown up the practicalities of using Skype; the pros and the cons as to what works as well also how you can get round problems.

The team included Alison Marshall, Director- Cumbrian Centre for Health Technologies, Health and Science, Susie Wilson, Senior Lecturer in Occupational Therapy, School of Rehabilitation & Public Health, Elaine Bidmead, Research Fellow, Cumbrian Centre for Health Technologies, Andrew Sullivan, Development Manager (CaCHeT), CaCHeT and Andrea Charters, Senior Learning Technologist, AQD.

CASE STUDY SERIES: Lisa Smith, Senior Lecturer in Emergency and Urgent Care

Posted on Updated on

health-practice-development-2Using Blackboard Blogs for structured learning activities

Lisa Smith recently took over the leadership of several modules on the Practice Development Framework. Some of the modules have some face to face elements but others are delivered totally online.

Structured materials and resources are provided via Blackboard with the main learning and interaction takes place through weekly ‘thread work’.

These are structured topics of research which the students need to post their findings on.

There is also the expectation that they will also read and respond to work posted by their peers and in this way they learn from each other.

What was the challenge you were trying to address?

As a distance learning module with a large number of students (60+) I was looking at a way to manage the Discussion Boards better. I give individual feedback to threads, and found it hard to keep track of the Discussion Board postings I had already marked.

I also wanted the students from all levels of study (5, 6 and 7) to work together as  I felt they would all benefit from seeing all the work submitted by their peers. The approach of putting them into smaller groups depending on their level, defeated this objective.

What did you do/implement?

I sought assistance from Sarah Ruston in AQD who suggested using Blackboard Blogs rather than a Discussion Board. The rationale for this suggestion is that:

  •  you can instantly see exactly what each student has posted
  • unread posts are ‘flagged’ so you quickly know which you have already read
  • whether anyone has commented on each blog posting

Essentially, students can post their thread work and easily choose another student’s work to read without having to scroll through large numbers of posts as was the practice on a discussion board.

What advice would you give to others looking to implement something similar?

Seek advice from the learning technologists!

The experience was excellent and well received by students, a number of points came to mind when considering this question:

Positive points:

  • With a large number of students it is easier to see who has submitted and who hasn’t Rather than having to scroll down through large numbers of threads you can just click on each student’s blog and read their work and the comments of other students.
  • The students themselves are still able to easily engage.
  • When marking thread work you can see who you have read and those who have submitted since the last time you accessed the blog.

Negative point

There was very little to be negative about but if I had to identify something, it would be the absence of an edit feature after feedback has been posted.  If you have written something and want to correct it after submitting it, you cannot simply go back and edit it.  You have to copy your original comment, delete it and then paste it into a new comment with the edits. This is only a very minor negative though.

Words of warning

If you are going to implement Blogs, make sure you do it from the outset. I  decided to introduce this approach after students had already engaged via a Discussion Board.

I quickly realised I would struggle with this particular module as I had so many students on it. So implemented the Blog for week 2 of the thread work. Some students got a little confused with the new process, however we gave them a lot of guidance on how to submit, but some still got a little lost.

Make sure that the ‘Group Blog’ feature is turned off (if you are using Groups in your Blackboard site) as this will give students two places to submit to and cause great confusion – learn from my mistake!

Have you adapted/changed anything subsequently?

All my modules now use Blogs for threadwork submissions.

What is the evidence on the impact of students and their learning?
At first the students need a little help to navigate the blogs but this settles down quickly.  Both the major’s and minor’s modules showed a high level of interaction between the students.  A recent student evaluation mentioned that they enjoyed using the blogs.

What do you plan to do next?

Use blogs for all thread work in the future.


How the blog looks to users:


An example blog posting and related comment:



Learning Technology: Coming Soon …

Posted on Updated on

There are a number of learning technology system changes expected to happen prior to the start of 2017/18;

  • PebblePad moving to version 5
  • Turnitin GradeMark moving to Turnitin Feedback Studio
  • Blackboard upgrade and theme change
  • Medial moving to version 5

Details and descriptions are subject to change, and more information will be circulated as necessary and as it becomes available.


  • Our current version of PebblePad is being moved to the latest version (V5) over the summer
  • The underlying technology moves from Flash to HTML5 – more accessible, and in-line with browsers that are phasing-out/removing Flash support
  • Accessible on all devices, such as smartphones and tablets
  • Redesigned, and simpler interface
  • ATLAS remains unchanged
  • All Assets move across
  • Our current version is no longer being developed, and will be phased-out shortly
PebblePad V5 Screenshot
PebblePad V5 home page

Support & communication
Workshops for staff will be delivered over the coming months. Some have already taken place.  Those who attend will have access to V5 via a temporary account that will remain available to them until the upgrade.

There are many “how-to” guides directly on the new home page. We will produce a transition guide, which will be applicable to staff and students.

Most users will move across on Monday 7th August, however, any reassessment students will be left on V3 (current system) until they have resubmitted, and will be moved at the end of August.


  • GradeMark interface is being updated to Feedback Studio
  • Same features, but improved use of space
  • Easier to add comments & Quick Marks
  • Can now add clickable URLs to feedback – support pages, documents etc.
Turnitin Feedback Studio Screenshot
Turnitin Feedback Studio

Support & communication
A transition guide will be produced to help staff move to marking via the updated interface.

Some of the features can be seen on Turnitin’s demonstration site.

We are able to switch-on this feature at any time, with a forced change to all users initially planned from Turnitin by July 2017. We are checking current timings for this forced switch; however, the current proposal is to make the move at around the same time as the Blackboard upgrade (i.e. late July / early August).


We will be looking to perform our annual upgrade of Blackboard over the summer. There is no licence-cost impact to upgrading to a newer version of the system. All upgrades bring security improvements, as well as support for newer versions of client software and systems (browsers etc.). However, an essential reason for needing to regularly upgrade is to ensure full support for the system for the up-coming academic year.

The upgrade will bring some new features and an updated colour scheme and theme change.

Regarding the theme, we are proposing to move incrementally towards the – desired – responsive web design theme as it develops. The proposal is a move towards the look-and-feel, but maintaining the course design options for a period of time (these themes need to be turned-off when we move totally onto the responsive design).

Blackboard potential theme change screenshot
One Blackboard potential theme change

The last two upgrades have happened towards the end of July / early August, and the proposal would be to do the same again (these upgrades didn’t appear to cause any major disruption issues). Blackboard should be on Managed Hosting by the time of the upgrade; this should offer more flexibility and options for upgrade timings.


  • System update to version 5
  • Updated and fully responsive interface redesign
  • HTML5 player by default (Flash fallback still an option)
  • Multispeed playback (i.e. 2x)
  • Multi-bitrate playback
  • Version 5 is required for MediaLecture (if we were to consider this option)
  • More customisation & branding options
  • Live-stream workflow improvements
Screenshot from Medial V5 demo server
Screenshot from Medial V5 demo server

Support & communication
Much of the current interaction with Medial is via the Blackboard building block, rather than directly through the interface. The main changes via this route will be the new options on the player, and the switch to HTML5. All the web interface features will still be there, just with an enhanced interface.

Support and upgrades of Medial is included in our annual licence. The upgrade is carried out remotely and is expected to take less than an hour (updates in the past have been around 15 minutes, with actual video playback disruption less than that). We just need to book an update “slot” with the vendors. As there isn’t a test system for Medial, updates always carry a slight risk, and we only see the changes at the same time as all system users (we rely on their demo server to view some of the potential feature changes ahead of the move).

Learning and Teaching FEST 2017: Call for contributions

Posted on Updated on

Student Success: Adding Value through ‘Learning Gain’

This year’s Learning and Teaching Fest will be held on Tuesday 20th June 2017 on our Fusehill Street campus. The theme of this year’s Fest is “Student Success” Adding Value through ‘Learning Gain’ a topic which covers a broad spectrum of practice and will allow us to showcase some of the best and most original practice at UoC and our partner institutions.

Adding Value through ‘Learning Gain’ is becoming an increasing focus as a way of measuring success in higher education and is one of the aspects the TEF (Teaching Excellence Framework) assessment framework considers as teaching excellence (Jan 2017, TEF, Higher Education Funding Council For England).

Learning Gain can be defined and understood in a number of ways. Broadly it is an attempt to measure the improvement in knowledge, skills, work-readiness and personal development made by students during their time spent in higher education (Feb 2016, Learning gain, Higher Education Funding Council for England).

The conference is looking to share learning and teaching practice from across the UoC and our partner institutions which adds value through learning gain to enhance student success. We are looking for contributions in the following key areas identified in the Learning, Teaching and Assessment Strategy review:

  • The learner
  • The learning environment
  • Curriculum design
  • The Academic role
  • Partnership working

Presenters will be scheduled within 30 minutes’ slots (maximum 20 minutes presenting, with time for Q&A/discussion).

Presenters are asked to explore the evidence of the impact and or effectiveness of their practice on adding value to the student experience. They will also be encouraged to frame the work within the new Learning, Teaching and Assessment Strategy.

Presentations may be single or joint with colleagues or students. We highly encourage co-presentations with students.

To offer a contribution, please submit a 200 word abstract via BOS survey by Friday 7th April 2017.

Abstracts should address the following:

  • What were you trying to enhance?
  • How did you enhance your practice to address this?
  • What is the evidence of the value added to the student experience?
  • How is this underpinned by current thinking in the literature?

Successful participants will be notified by email by Thursday 27th April 2017.

Should you wish to discuss your ideas before submitting a proposal please contact:
Dr Amanda Chapman ( ext: 2739
or Dr Ruth Mewis ( ext: 2616

CASE STUDY SERIES: Peter Tankard, Senior Lecturer, Secondary Education and School Direct UPL

Posted on Updated on

“The best way to eat a bunch of grapes”  Supporting School Direct students at a distance using PebblePad

The Core Science PGCE began to use PebblePad several years ago to track trainees’ progress whilst they were on placement. This was a small-scale pilot to try to improve communications whilst trainees were on placement.

Prior to adopting the system, when trainees went on placement their record keeping and tracking was historically not very satisfactory. In Peter’s words: “everything felt really asynchronous – trainees went on placement and came back and that was it – there was no ongoing dialogue”. Very few trainees kept in touch whilst in school so tutors didn’t really know how the trainee was progressing until they visited them on site. Trainees were also expected keep a weekly reflective log to regularly reflect on their teaching delivery and record mentor meetings. In many cases, this did not happen. “There was no real sense of trainees keeping on top of things and they would write things retrospectively once they returned from placement, which was far from ideal as the reflections were much less meaningful”. The Science team found the use of PebblePad a bit of a breakthrough as, even though not in ‘real time’, there was much more of a sense of this ongoing dialogue regarding a trainee’s progress. Such was the success of this small pilot, in 2013/14, the whole core secondary PGCE team adopted PebblePad for use in this way.

Moreover, the trainees’ use of PebblePad was extended to incorporate an ongoing portfolio of evidence and reflections with regard to their workplace learning across both phases of their ‘in school’ training. This work was shared to a secure area which allowed university personal tutors access to monitor trainees’ progress and gave tutors the ability to offer feedback and suggestions in a timely manner. Staff could also offer prompts if trainees seemed to be falling behind. Most trainees engaged with this process extremely well and saw the benefits of using a system like PebblePad, but sadly there were a few that didn’t. Anecdotal evidence seems to suggest that those trainees that did engage made the most rapid progress. Of course this could be due to a multitude of other, unrelated factors and dispositions. In a similar way, some tutors engaged well and really saw the benefits of working in this way

With the advent of School Direct from 2014 onwards, where trainees are based in schools and ‘learning on the job’, the university needed a robust way to track trainees’ progress whilst they were largely in schools. It was decided to use PebblePad as the system was already established across the programme and most staff had a good working knowledge so one barrier had already been addressed.

As an aside, and around the same time, the PebblePad system was upgraded and the new version introduced many enhanced reporting features and functions behind the scenes, which most of the teaching team did not know about until they were demonstrated. Peter calls this serendipity:“We started using PebblePad in one way then, when staff saw its worth, it was then re-designed to get the best out of the trainees and provide a rich vein of data for the programme

On the School Direct programme, at the outset, trainees begin by observing taught lessons, then they move on to delivering lessons themselves. They are constantly observed by mentors and have targets applied regularly. All of these ‘occurrences’ are meaningful learning moments that trainees needed to capture and reflect upon straight away. If trainees did not complete the reflections soon after the occurrence (as was largely the case in the pre-PebblePad days), they would almost render the experience worthless as new learning would be occurring all the time. Reflection is arguably a fundamental skill for a professional. Peter said “our aim was, that by getting trainees to complete the weekly reflections in the workbook, we would produce better teachers at the end. Having dialogue throughout (between trainee and University Partnership Lecturer) made the learning more meaningful, targeted and progressive”.

What did you do/implement?
A bespoke workbook was created for the School Direct trainees and, using adaptive release, pages were released at certain points during the year. Staff were careful not to ‘over-face’ the trainees with too many pages at the outset so just the pages needed for the first term were released at the beginning. Peter refers to this as the ‘thin end of the wedge’ – make the workbook simple and easy to use and then release more complex material in stages. It was important the everyone became comfortable with the software before ‘raising the bar’ in terms of the tasks.

“You cannot eat a cluster of grapes at once, but it is very easy if you eat them one by one” (Roumain)  
Trainees needed to develop their skills very rapidly, therefore short support videos were provided outlining what trainees needed to know. This support resource was created in PebblePad and linked to the first page of the workbook. It showed trainees how they could fill in their weekly reflections and how to document targets set by their mentors. Ultimately, the aim of the workbook was to develop trainees’ reflective skills throughout the course.

Have you adapted/changed anything subsequently?
We refine the workbook each year and sometimes ‘in year’ which is the absolute strength of using workbooks. Also, the reporting function is extremely powerful and the ability to collect data is another of PebblePad’s selling points. The university can download this vast amount of this accrued data to spreadsheets and disseminate it simply to where it’s needed. This was the feature that the more reticent staff were sold on“.

“Pebble Pocket is awesome!”
The mobile app is very versatile for School Direct trainees, and is used, for example, to record transcripts of mentor meetings. When trainees meet with their mentor, they have a conversation and agree targets. A paper-based form is completed which they both sign. The trainee is able to take a photograph of this form with their mobile, and send it directly to their PebblePad asset store using a Wifi connection. This form can then form part of their QTS (Qualified Teacher Status) evidence and added to their workbook.

School based mentors can see a real benefit with this process. In the past, they would’ve held the meeting with their trainee and the trainee was then expected to go away and write up notes of the meeting ‘after the fact’. Mentors were never fully sure that all information was being recorded in trainees’ portfolios, especially if reprimands or hard targets were issued. Now, the mentor knows that the meeting is being documented in a much more realistic way.

What is the evidence on the impact of trainees and their learning?
PebblePad is not currently used for ‘formal’ learning as such, but is more of a developmental tool to enhance reflection skills which, in turn, arguably enhances their learning. Peter would like to develop this area in the future as he feels there is a lot of potential to use PebblePad in a more formal way.

Impact on Staff……
In addition to the School Direct workspaces, Peter has also created a Quality Assurance workspace just for academic staff to use. Each time they visit a school, the university tutor will fill in an electronic form and send it to the workspace for that school. This is a really simple and efficient way to keep all information on a school in one place and is especially useful for consistency if there are staff changes either in school or at the university. It will be especially useful outlining where a school possibly needs to improve and when Ofsted carry out their inspections.

What do you plan to do next?
I don’t know, but as soon as someone presents a problem, my immediate thought is ‘how can we do this in PebblePad”

Student submissions:


Staff can see when a student last accessed their workbook and also how complete it is (%age figure).

An example of a Secondary PGCE workbook with feedback.

NB Feedback can be added as free-text or an electronic feedback form can be designed and used: 


An example of the electronic feedback form staff filled in when marking students’ work:


“Rebooting learning for the digital age: What next for technology- enhanced higher education?” (HEPI. 2 Feb 2017)

Posted on Updated on

The Higher Education Policy Institute (HEPI) has recently published a new report entitled “Rebooting learning for the digital age: What next for technology- enhanced higher education?”.

HEPI report cover

The report makes seven recommendations that HEIs should consider to make the most of the advantages and opportunities that digital technology can offer; even stating that technology can help support TEF’s three main components, namely teaching quality, learning environment and student outcomes.

The report recommends that technology-enhanced learning (TEL) should be built into the curriculum design process to ensure effectiveness, and that best-practice should be evidenced and shared to help support TEL use and continued adoption. A focus on digital capabilities is also recommended, as this is a key component of graduate employability; increased digital skills across the institution also helps drive TEL and the digital environment.

TEL can have a positive impact on learning outcomes when it is “designed-in” as part of the overall pedagogic approach. The report also discusses and recommends learning analytics to help measure engagement, increase retention and potentially predict outcomes.

There are many examples from across the sector within the report that help substantiate the arguments and recommendations being made.

Overall a very interesting read, with strong recommendations for making the most of TEL within Higher Education.

You can find out more on the HEPI website, which also includes a link to the report in PDF format –