Peer Mentoring to engage students and support transition to Higher Education

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The Teaching and Learning Institute is gathering short case studies of academic practice to enable colleagues to share their approaches to teaching and learning more widely and encourage interdisciplinary and interprofessional learning.
The Teaching and Learning Institute coordinates, evaluates and disseminates inspiring and innovative teaching and learning.


In this case study, Rahema Nadeem, work placement student in the Learning Development Group at the Business School, writes about coordinating and developing different peer mentoring schemes.

Peer mentoring is an excellent way to engage new students and make them feel comfortable in a university environment. In 2014, there were only two peer mentoring schemes in the University of Huddersfield Business School: the Accountancy & Finance PALS (Peer Assisted Learning Scheme) and Business Management Mentors. Both of these schemes evolved from different backgrounds and have extremely different methods of implementation When I started my placement in the September of 2015, I was given the task of looking after the School’s peer mentoring schemes in terms of monitoring them, thinking of ways to improve them and focussing on where support might be needed to introduce new schemes.

Professor Caroline Elliott, my supervisor, asked me set up a pilot peer mentoring scheme for the BSc Economics’ first year students. The main idea was for the second year students to become peer mentors for the first years and assist them with basic academic skills such as presentations or locating university services. I spoke to Jane Tobbell, who is supporting the development of peer mentoring strategically across the University, and she provided me with the material needed to train the mentors.

Peer Mentoring training
Initially, Caroline gave me the names of second-year students who had shown interested in becoming peer mentors. We had five potential peer mentors attend training which consisted of making them aware of the extent of their responsibility as well as an ethics exercise to demonstrate at what point the mentors would need to involve me. I also explained the benefits of peer mentoring to the mentors; the main motivation for them is that they gain valuable experience that can enhance their employability as well as make their CVs stronger. Following the training, I got the list for first year students and allocated each mentor their mentees.

Supporting transition into Higher Education
The main idea behind starting this scheme was to make sure that first year students had a helping hand in figuring out their university life. I remember being a first year and not having guidance when I needed it regarding University services. University is a completely new world for students and many can learn about it more effectively from someone who has been in their situation quite recently.

A problem I observed while I was a peer mentor in my second year was the lack of communication between the mentors and the mentees. This time I resolved to make sure that this would not be a problem. In the training I made sure that this point was explicitly highlighted for the mentors. I gave them the idea of meeting their mentees bi-monthly. Caroline was happy with this arrangement and told me that she would encourage her first-years to meet regularly with their mentors.

Developing social engagement
Another peer mentoring scheme started in the Business School this year focused more on the social aspects of student life. The International Learning Development Office (ILDO) came to me with an issue: the top-up students were not coming out of their comfort zones and not progressing in their language skills. This included mostly Chinese students who were here for a year only. The department envisioned a peer mentoring scheme to enable these students to get involved in activities around campus. I suggested that we collaborate with the Students’ Union (SU) and get those students involved in the many societies that are operating in the SU. The ILDO liked this idea so I arranged a presentation on the societies with Sabrina Hussein, the VP Education and Jordan Aird, VP Student Activities. They gave a presentation on the societies available in the SU and encouraged the students to participate in the upcoming Give-It-A-Go Week. The idea behind this was to make sure that the top-up students know what exactly is happening in the university and if they have something of a particular interest they can find the relevant society, make new friends and improve their communication skills before returning to their home countries.

Communication and coordination
The main challenge in starting the peer mentoring scheme was coordinating all the parties involved. It was quite tough to find a time slot when the mentors and mentees were both free. I also found communicating effectively with the individuals involved was a difficult task as e-mails often go unread.

The next step is to develop a peer mentoring scheme for the Hospitality & Logistics department. There is currently a pilot scheme going on that focuses on one-to-one peer mentoring on a need-basis. Following on there will be other departments piloting schemes such as the Law School.

The aim will be to have peer mentoring available to all students by 2018 and thus align with the University Teaching and Learning Strategy enabling strand of achieving ‘A Safe, Secure and Challenging Environment’.

Posted by Kathrine Jensen, Research Assistant, Teaching and Learning Institute. The Teaching and Learning Institute coordinates, evaluates and disseminates inspiring and innovative teaching and learning. Follow TALI on Twitter

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MyReading: supporting student learning and library development

The Teaching and Learning Institute is gathering short case studies of academic practice to enable colleagues to share their approaches to teaching and learning more widely and encourage interdisciplinary and inter-professional learning. The Teaching and Learning Institute coordinatesevaluates and disseminates inspiring and innovative teaching and learning.

In this case study, Kate McGuinn and Penelope Dunn, subject librarians from Computing and Library Services, write about their evaluation of MyReading, a reading list system developed in-house by the Library Systems Manager Dave Pattern.


In 2015, we decided to evaluate the University’s reading list system MyReading. Following a ruling in 2014 by the University Quality and Standards Advisory Group, it is now the only medium by which lecturers are to make their reading lists available to students. It fully integrates library resources into the reading lists so students can click straight through to an item (for online resources) or the Summon record for hard copy items.  It also links into the student record system so that library staff can easily see how many students will require the items on the lists and purchase books accordingly. All academic modules are required to have a reading list in the MyReading system. Not only is it a central resource for all students looking for core readings and resources, it is also the tool the library uses to inform purchasing and collection development.

Evaluating MyReading

An evaluation of MyReading was part of the project plan and the MyReading Project Group decided to launch a student survey in 2015, 4 years after the launch of the project.  The aims of the survey were to find out:

  • the level of usage of MyReading in the different Schools of the University
  • what students think of it
  • what they would like to see change to identify next steps for development

We also wanted to evaluate a recent marketing campaign aimed at students so we asked questions to ascertain the visibility of this.  Launching a survey at this time meant we could make use of Emily Davison’s (the current marketing placement student working in the library) expertise in survey design.

Using data to target areas for enhancing student awareness and engagement

In terms of student engagement with MyReading by School, we found that while students in most Schools were making good use of MyReading in general, usage in two Schools was disappointing.  This knowledge is helping us to target our efforts to increase student awareness of the benefits of MyReading.  The analysis of two open questions about what students like and don’t like about MyReading was particularly revealing. Two findings from this analysis were that students find MyReading very useful as a starting point for research but that many find their reading lists difficult to use, either because they are too long, too short, unhelpfully structured or out of date.  Many students also highlighted positive practice in their responses to questions, praising reading lists which used section headings, annotations and a variety of different relevance levels (e.g. Essential, Recommended or Background).

There were some practical challenges which we had to deal with.  We initially decided to put the survey on the Qualtrics survey platform which appeared to give unlimited free usage.  When we reached 250 responses however, we received a message from Qualtrics saying that we would have to pay for their “Business” subscription if we wanted to access any more responses.  Thanks to the quick thinking and action of our marketing placement student, the survey was quickly transferred to Google Docs where we continued to gather responses which finally totaled 772.  The offer of being entered into a prize draw to win Amazon vouchers probably contributed to the good response achieved.

What the students think about MyReading

Below are some comments which represent some of the themes which arose from analysis of the open questions we asked.  Each of these examples was echoed many times by other students.

Positive feedback

“All the relevant texts are in one place for seminars and there are also secondary resources and resources for further research which are a good starting point for assignments.”

“Fabulous starting point provided by people who have done wide ranging preliminary research.”

“It gives you a good starting point for your research and helps you with the key theories and knowledge.”

Suggestions for improvement

A high number of these comments focused on consistency of use and organisation of lists:

“Make sure ALL course / module leaders use them. I have 2 modules this year that have no information listed. I understand that the readings for these modules are very broad but it would be helpful to have some key readings provided.”

“Some lecturers use this facility better than others. Some not at all. You could ensure each module has a comprehensive list instead of it being hit and miss depending on the individual lecturer.”

“Probably using more headings and adding a little description about the book on the page. Having tutors write a small summary of what we will be using a particular item for would be really useful for organisation.”

Many comments also highlighted the need for lecturers to update their lists regularly:

“Some of the books on the reading list seem to be either a bit dated, or standard texts. There is nothing specific and directed for certain lectures or areas of interest. They should be regularly maintained.”

For a lot of students, the issue is simply that their lists are felt to be too long which makes it hard to get started with reading:

 “They are too long so it’s hard to know where to start.  Overwhelming.”

“Some reading lists can be a bit overwhelming when they are not grouped into concise parts. I wouldn’t be expecting them to be handpicked for every lecture / assignment, but a few sub-groups would make them a little more user-friendly.”

What’s next?

It became clear to us when we analysed the data from the student survey that one way of increasing student engagement and satisfaction with MyReading was to ensure the engagement of teaching staff.  The MyReading project group has therefore put together an action plan for promoting MyReading to staff and students.  We are currently working through our objectives including creating animations and videos to promote good practice to lecturers, enhancing the training materials available to lecturers on the iPark (University of Huddersfield Teaching and Learning Innovation Park)

We are also organising dedicated MyReading Learning Bytes sessions (a series of informal one-hour lunchtime staff development sessions for all staff).

In addition, a Reading Lists and Collection Development Librarian has now been appointed to work in the Business School.  The post is funded by the Business School and will run until October 2016. The librarian, Laura Williams, has already made significant progress in raising the standard of reading lists in the Business School and promoting best practice across the School.  In addition, many of the resources she has created can be adapted for use with other Schools.

A few of the developments to MyReading which were suggested by students have already been implemented and the others are currently being considered for implementation by the MyReading project group.

To find out more about MyReading please see the latest conference presentations:

You’ll find more articles and presentations about MyReading in the University of Huddersfield Repository

Posted by Kathrine Jensen, Research Assistant, Teaching and Learning Institute. The Teaching and Learning Institute coordinates, evaluates and disseminates inspiring and innovative teaching and learning. Follow TALI on Twitter

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Embedding Sustainability meaningfully

The Teaching and Learning Institute organises a seminar series where National Teaching Fellows and University Teaching Fellows from the University of Huddersfield share their expertise and experience.

Dr Carlo Fabricatore

Dr Carlo Fabricatore

In this session on 19th May, Dr Carlo Fabricatore talked about his work with embedding sustainability in the curriculum. Carlo was awarded a University Teaching Fellowship in 2015. His specialist teaching areas are game design and development, interaction design, software engineering, and management. His research interests are centred on the impacts of play and games on learning and human development in social communities and enterprises.

Making sustainability meaningful by active engagement of students

Carlo’s approach is based on the concept of wicked problems focussing on contextualising selected assignments so that students learn through actively engaging in sustainability-relevant, meaningful scenarios, rather than passively learning about sustainability through taught sessions. Wicked’ is used in this context to define complex problems which, among other traits, admit no definitive solution, nor can be described in a comprehensive way. Thus, they require continuous engagement, analysis and adaptation to cope with them, understanding them as much as possible to manage shifting equilibria rather than trying (pointlessly) to ‘control’ them.

Carlo started by saying that sustainability is not an add-on, it is everywhere thus addressing a constant voice concern from academics, namely that engaging with sustainability means adding content to their modules and courses.

Sustainability is multidimensional and consists of the interplay between environment, economic growth and social development – all interconnected. This is what makes it such a challenge but Carlo believes that students can benefit and develop from being challenged.

The role of the educator

Carlo also spent some time talking about the role of the educator and offered the interesting perspective that the educator was there to facilitate user experience, arguing that there is benefit in viewing learning as an experience and the educator as designing the learning experience/learning environment. During the talk, Carlo acknowledged that we work within structures, systems and processes that can be constraining to some activities but that you could view some constraint as enabling (but that some or too many could be disabling).


Fabricatore, C. and López, X. (2015) ‘Higher education in a complex world: nurturing “chaordic” influencers’. In: Sixth Advanced International Colloquium on Building the Scientific Mind (BtSM2015), 2015, 17-21 August, São Raimundo Nonato & Serra da Capivara, Piauí, Brazil , pp. 1-11

Fabricatore, Carlo and López, Ximena (2014). Complexity-based learning and teaching: a case study in higher education. Innovations in Education and Teaching International, 51 (6). pp. 618-630. ISSN 1470-3297.

Fabricatore, C. and López, X. (2013) ‘Fostering Creativity Through Educational Video Game Development Projects: A Study of Contextual and Task Characteristics’ Creativity Research Journal, 25 (4), pp. 418-425. ISSN 1040-0419

For more publications, see Carlo Fabricatore’s staff profile and Researchgate profile:

Posted by Kathrine Jensen (@kshjensen), Research Assistant, Teaching and Learning Institute. The Teaching and Learning Institute coordinates, evaluates and disseminates inspiring and innovative teaching and learning. Follow TALI on Twitter

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Playing at Uni: Play, games, and creative teaching to transform student learning.

The Teaching and Learning Institute organises a seminar series where National Teaching Fellows from the University of Huddersfield share their expertise and experience.

Image (c) Andrew Walsh (2016)

Image (c) Andrew Walsh (2016)

Andrew Walsh facilitated a NTF/UTF workshop on 18th April “Playing at Uni: Play, games, and creative teaching to transform student learning.” Andrew is a librarian and University Teaching Fellow and was awarded his National Teaching Fellowship in 2011. Nine colleagues attended the season and were divided into two groups. My group was made up of two librarians and a lecturer from the School of Education and Professional Development.

Andrew started the session with a very short presentation about the power and benefits of games and play which then “seemed” to go wrong and freeze the computer. It then transitioned into a series of escape room style puzzles that had to be solved in order to reveal a series of games for the rest of the session. Most of the games that he introduced were aimed at developing the information literacies of the participants. He divided his time moving from group to group and offering guidance when needed or requested.

Here are some of the games we played in Andrew’s session:

Escape room challenge – This ran throughout the session proper. Each group had to figure out how to open a series of combination-locked boxes. Each box contained activities such as those described below, along with a puzzle to open the next locked box, and when they had been revealed they could be played with, and the value and utility of them described. An initial puzzle was provided, and the group members had to collaborate in order to solve these puzzles so they could open the box which contained other games and eventually some treats (fortune cookies). Andrew is currently producing an escape room induction as a pilot for teaching through escape rooms.

SEEK! game – Each group was given a pack of SEEK! cards developed by Andrew. The cards had different information literacy questions relating to the construction of search strategies. There were also wildcards included in the pack to provide a random, balancing element to the game. Each participant had to take two cards from the pack and choose which one of their two cards to play. The participants could nominate any group member to ask the questions on their cards. I became aware of the gaps in my knowledge regarding search strategies as a result of this game.

Referencing game – Each group was given a set of cards with a component of the APA 6th referencing guide printed on it. The goal was get participants to work together to place the different referencing components in the right order. There was a discussion after this activity by both groups about identifiable patterns in the constructed references.

The only activity or challenge in the entire session which didn’t require group collaboration was the ‘build a duck’ Lego exercise. Each individual was given 6 Lego bricks and asked by Andrew to build a duck. I had already done this exercise before at an external conference a couple of years ago so I was able to build a reasonable duck. It was interesting to see the different types of ducks produced by other participants in both groups, showing that even with a handful of bricks and a clear object to build, everyone created something different. Andrew used this exercise to talk briefly about the Lego Serious Play methodology and how he has used it to develop the information skills of students.

For more about Andrew’s work on games for staff and students, I would recommend that you read his game-based-learning report for the HEA at:

Posted by Olaojo Aiyegbayo (@olaojo15),  Teaching and Learning Institute. The Teaching and Learning Institute (TALI) coordinates, evaluates and disseminates inspiring and innovative teaching and learning. Follow TALI on Twitter

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Summer of learning at University of Huddersfield

The Teaching and Learning Institute logoThe TALI team has put together a selection of staff development for our University of Huddersfield colleagues – please join us for some Summer learning.





Supporting disabled students in a changing funding landscape – implications and opportunities for teaching and learning, Wednesday 29th June, 9.30-11.30

This session led by Jo Mitchell, Senior Disability Officer, Student Services, will address the changes to the disabled students allowance (DSA) and the potential impact this will have on teaching and learning for disabled students. The session will include a presentation on the changes and the opportunity to discuss the impact of the changes on their areas of work, how staff can address the impact to maintain student engagement and achievement and the potential for changing/developing current teaching and learning practice to address the needs of disabled and non-disabled students alike.

 Games for teaching and learning, Thursday 30th June, 9.30-12.00

In this session Cheryl Reynolds and Andrew Walsh will explore the potential benefits, challenges and caveats of gamification. This will include a brief account of the use of gamification to teach Bourdieu’s field theory to trainee teachers and participants will be able to devise a prototype design for a game for use in their own teaching practice.

Using Lego for learning, Tuesday 5th July, 14.00-16.00

Andrew Walsh, Academic Librarian, (CLS) and National Teaching Fellow and University Teaching Fellow will introduce attendees to the idea of using Lego to facilitate learning through the use of metaphor and little plastic bricks.

Teaching ShareMeet, Wednesday 6th July, 12.15-13.30

ShareMeet is an informal session with the opportunity for members of staff to do a 10 minute presentation/talk to share an aspect of their practice. The Teaching and Learning Institute coordinates, evaluates and disseminates inspiring and innovative teaching and learning. Join our Summer session to hear from the following colleagues:

  • Liz Bennett: Benefits of Peer Marking
  • Michael O’Grady: Engaging students
  • Daniel Belton: Developing student competence with specialist software using video-enhanced and discovery/inquiry-based learning
  • Laura Woods: Using online interactive resources and videos to allow self-directed learning and reach students at point of need
  • Alison Sharman and Bryony Ramsden: Mapping how international students study
  • Phil Drake: A pedagogy of student empowerment: creating reflective, autonomous and ethical learners.

Academic Blogging, Thursday 7th July, 9.30-12.00

This hands-on session will cover an introduction to creating an academic blog which includes setting up a blog site and understanding the basics of the WordPress blogging platform. In this session, Kathrine Jensen and Olaojo Aiyegbayo will explore the benefits of academic blogging (individual and group) and there will be a discussion about what makes an engaging blog post and more. Participants will also be shown how to promote their blog posts using social media.

Posted by Kathrine Jensen (@kshjensen), Research Assistant, Teaching and Learning Institute. The Teaching and Learning Institute coordinates, evaluates and disseminates inspiring and innovative teaching and learning. Follow TALI on Twitter

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Teaching online to teach online

The Teaching and Learning Institute logoThe Teaching and Learning Institute is gathering short case studies of academic practice to enable colleagues to share their approaches to teaching and learning more widely and encourage interdisciplinary and interprofessional learning.

The Teaching and Learning Institute coordinates, evaluates and disseminates inspiring and innovative teaching and learning.

In this case study, Dr Sue Folley, academic development advisor from computing and library services, writes about developing a course to support staff teaching online.

The Background

Through a combination of undertaking of an MSc in Multimedia and eLearning (2003-2005) and personal experience of teaching online as part of the Specialist Conference for the School of Education and Professional Development (2009-2012), I realised that the culture of teaching and learning in a wholly online context, and the skills needed from the tutors, were very different from the ones that were used in the traditional face-to-face environment. Because of this I based my doctoral studies on the tutor experience of teaching online (EdD gained in 2013).

From this, I realised that we, as an institution needed to develop some further support for staff in this area, as all we had in place were short staff development sessions, of about 1-2 hours on individual tools that could be used in teaching and learning. What was needed, was something more substantial that immersed the tutors into the online learning context and showed them through modelling good practice, in addition to discussion about and exposure to new tools, how an online course could be. The other thing I noticed both from my EdD work and just through discussion with academic staff about teaching online, that there was a degree of negativity about it, as people had often been given no choice of teaching online, and their preferred method was the face-to-face context. Instead of just embracing the task on hand, the staff tended to look for negatives about teaching online, rather than being open-minded about what was on offer. I wanted to change this perception and show that although online teaching is different, it has some advantages over teaching face-to-face (as well as some disadvantages), but more importantly, it can be engaging for staff and students, as well as a rewarding teaching experience.

So in 2013, I decided that I needed to create a staff development course to address some of these objectives. I did some research online and found that a course to help teach how to facilitate online had been devised by Carr et al (2009) from the Centre for Educational Technology, University of Cape Town, created with a Creative Commons Share Alike licence for adaptation and reuse. It needed some updating to include newer tools and technologies, and adapting for our context at the University of Huddersfield, but otherwise the structure and some of the contents were ideal to use as a start point for developing the type of course I had in mind. I also thought that it would be a lot of work to develop and run alone, so I needed a partner in crime, so I approached a colleague from the School of Human and Health Sciences who had been given a remit to support staff in his School in teaching online, Stephen White, to see if he was willing to collaborate on this, and luckily he agreed. Stephen had taken the same MSc in Multimedia and eLearning as me, and was very experienced in online teaching. Developing the course fit in well with his role, as it gave Stephen a structured way to support the staff teaching online in his School. So we began developing the course using the one I had found as a basic structure, but adapting most of the content to our needs. It took a few months to develop the Facilitating Online course, but now, almost three years later, we have run seven cohorts of the course with a further one planned later this year and we have had 75 staff across the University attend the course.

The Facilitating Online Course

The course runs for five weeks wholly online to give the participants the student perspective of taking part in an online course. Each week is a stage of online learning: Week 1 – Applying; Week 2 – Participating; Week 3 – Facilitating; Week 4 – Creating; and Week 5 – Applying.

Each week we provided the same structure of activities to model good pedagogic practice of keeping to patterns of delivery, so each week contained the following elements:

  1. A short welcome video introduction from one of the tutors – to model how this can help build social presence and humanise the online learning process.
  2. A written introduction outlining what the week is about and which skills of online facilitation the week will be covering, and how it fits into the overall objectives of the course.
  3. Some appropriate pre-reading (selected by us) usually combining a mix of pedagogic journal articles, blog posts, videos and other web-based resources.
  4. A small task to ease the participants into the topic, this was designed to take no longer than 30 mins and was usually fairly easy and often light-hearted.
  5. A larger task for the week to explore the topic further, setup to take about an hour, and this took various formats including participating in discussion board tasks, group wikis, and creating artefacts.
  6. A synchronous webinar to give the participants a chance to get together online to discuss the week’s activities, led by the tutors and help build a learning community.
  7. A private reflective blog post, for the participants to each reflect on the week’s activities and readings.

The technologies we have used for the course include:

  • UniLearn (Blackboard) to host the course, to model good practice of the University’s VLE.
  • Yammer as a social network for informal discussion and networking and this was used for some of the tasks to model how the students need to build social presence and a community of practice.
  • UniConnect (Adobe Connect) for the weekly webinars to model synchronous webinars, discuss the week’s activities both in terms of how the participants engaged with the tasks, and how they may use similar tasks with their students in the future. We also demonstrated some of the monitoring tools they could use.
  • UniLearn’s in-built tools including discussion boards, Campus Pack wikis and blogs, to model the use of these with online students.
  • Doodle polling tool to arrange tutorials with the tutors.
  • The participants also had to create an artefact which included an audio and visual element, so had a choice of tools for this with ranging from PowerPoint to mobile apps and Camtasia screencasting software.
  • The tutors also used UniLearn’s in-built monitoring tools to monitor activity and chase up any non-participants or those not completing in the expected timescales. These included the Performance Dashboard statistics, the Module Reports, each task having to be marked as reviewed once completed.

As part of the course, the participants also develop an online activity to run at a later date with their students. This is developed throughout the course under the guidance of the tutors, and gives the participants a tangible outcome that can be implemented in practice. The online activities are also shared with the other participants on the course, so they develop a good understanding of a variety of potential applications of technologies to different teaching and learning contexts.

We have also aligned the course to the University’s Digital Literacy Grid (to be used in appraisals to assess and plan development in learning technologies for academic staff) as well as in order to meet our University’s interpretation of the QAA’s requirement to ensure staff are trained to deliver courses in the appropriate format.

The course has also been supported by my placement students (one per year), who help develop and update the course, test out the technology, monitor course activity and support the participants with various aspects of the technology. This helps us provide a really good support service to participants, as well as give the placement student some interesting and rewarding work to get involved with, as well as building their employability skills.

Course Feedback

The course has received overwhelmingly positive reviews and just a sample of the qualitative feedback comments from the participants in the anonymous evaluation survey are as follows:

  • I have thoroughly enjoyed the course. It has heightened my awareness of the range of tools available to enhance the student experience of DL [Distance Learning]
  • The course has shown me how a DL course should be set up. The standards were very high
  • I really enjoyed this course. I have learnt some good techniques for improving my own courses and have gained confidence. I would recommend this to others. For some lecturers this should be part of their training so as to open their minds about what is available for teaching
  • Great course, 75% relative to all teaching… not just Online. A must for all academics!
  • An excellent course, helped by the fact that the tutors were both knowledgeable and enthusiastic
  • Everyone should be encouraged to complete this course – this will improve the delivery of my modules.
  • Very well done to our tutors, you are all to be congratulated for the best course I have been on in my education career.  I have learned so much about online learning but I have relearned so much about sound educational practice.
  • I immensely enjoyed the course, learned a great deal from it and shall continue to do so.  The last 5 weeks has enhanced my teaching, my knowledge and my online skills.  I shall miss the course.  Thanks to all the facilitators for making their time and expertise available in this way.  I am very grateful.

Future Plans

Each time the course has run, we have reviewed it both in light of our experiences and observations but also as a response to the feedback from participants (both formal through the evaluation survey and informal through comments or questions about the tasks or in their blog posts). The instructions to tasks have been updated to reduce potential misunderstandings; links to support and help made clearer; blog posts have been templated; and checklists added to each week. Several activities have been changed, removed and added, resulting in the seventh version of the course being quite a departure from the first one, and we have further changes already planned before the next cohort runs.

We have plans to develop the course to appeal to those who are interested in incorporating technology more in their face-to-face or blended delivery formats or used flipped classroom approaches, in addition to those who are teaching or planning to teach wholly online. One of the most positive outcomes of the course, is the feedback from participants about how much taking the course has impacted on their current teaching practice.

On the whole, we think that the course has been a success and Stephen and I have presented it at an international conference, as well as having an invited journal paper in progress. Delivering the course, although time-consuming, has been a really positive experience and hugely rewarding. 


Carr, T., Jaffer, S., and Smuts J. (2009). Facilitating online: A course leader’s guide. [Online]. Retrieved: 21 December 2015.

Folley, Susan (2013) Bridging the gap between face-to-face and online teaching : a case study exploring tutors’ early experiences of teaching online in a UK university 2009-2012. Doctoral thesis, University of Huddersfield.

Posted by Kathrine Jensen (@kshjensen), Research Assistant, Teaching and Learning Institute. The Teaching and Learning Institute (TALI) coordinates, evaluates and disseminates inspiring and innovative teaching and learning. Follow TALI on Twitter

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Writing ‘boot’ camp to foster proactive and supportive writing cultures for undergraduates.

The Teaching and Learning Institute logoThe Teaching and Learning Institute is gathering short case studies of academic practice to enable colleagues to share their approaches to teaching and learning more widely and encourage interdisciplinary and interprofessional learning.

The Teaching and Learning Institute coordinates, evaluates and disseminates inspiring and innovative teaching and learning

In this case study, Cheryl Reynolds, senior lecturer in the School of Education and Professional Development, writes about using writing ‘boot camps’. As part of a two-year, blended learning degree in Education, undergraduates need to develop the confidence and expertise to write convincingly about their own educational research. One way to support this is to foster proactive and supportive writing cultures for undergraduates. A two-day, writing ‘boot camp’ that sought to initiate such a culture was devised.

Why did you decide to try this out?

Many students struggle to meet the challenge of writing academically and were frequently requesting more emphasis on academic strategies and skills. However, support for academic writing in the institution is preponderantly remedial in character, coming as help from academic skills tutors for struggling writers or as feedback and feed-forward on problematic aspects of finished work. The need to establish proactive cultures that model and foster good writing as the writing is taking shape has been convincingly argued for at doctoral level (Kamler & Thomson, 2014) but scant attention has been paid to the potential benefits of such a culture introduced for undergraduates.

Where did you get the idea from?

The idea came from my own participation as a postgraduate student in a Thesis Boot Camp run at the University by Dr Peta Freestone.  I felt there was potential for this kind of approach to be used productively with undergraduates, too.

What were the benefits and challenges for you?

The Boot Camp was relatively easy to initiate and organise. The supporting materials were adapted from the Thesis version mentioned above and thereafter, all that was needed was to set a date and book a suitable room, explaining the idea to students and sending interested students some preparatory emails.  These, too were adapted from those I had been sent for Thesis Boot Camp.   We booked students onto a register, sent them joining instructions and delivered the event.

The benefits students reported included a sense of liberation from an overly anxious ‘internal editor’ which increased the speed with which they were able to write and the quality of their academic voice in the final written work. They also described some productive shifts in their relationship to the text, and in their scholarly identity.

What’s next?

These findings indicates that this approach potentially has a range of attendant benefits that make it worthy of further development and wider take-up at undergraduate level. Our second writing boot camp to help students working on their Reflexive Study will take place in May.  We are currently writing a collaborative paper on this intervention which has been accepted for presentation at the Association for Research in Post Compulsory Education Conference in July and I am writing a single-authored paper which has been accepted for presentation at the Standing Conference  on University Teaching and Research in the Education of Adults.

Kamler, B., & Thomson, P. (2014). Helping doctoral students write: pedagogies for supervision. London; New York: Routledge.

Posted by Kathrine Jensen (@kshjensen), Research Assistant, Teaching and Learning Institute

The Teaching and Learning Institute coordinates, evaluates and disseminates inspiring and innovative teaching and learning. Follow TALI on Twitter

Posted in academic practice, Learning experience, writing | Tagged , , , , | 1 Comment