Research Papers

User Research with Disabled Students

Bennett, A & Soon, L. (2021). User research with disabled students. ALISS Quarterly, 16(3), 20–22.

This article looks at the pros and cons of doing digital user research with disabled students during lockdown. The rush to move teaching and learning services online may have exacerbated inequalities and created new barriers. Doing user research at this time was both an opportunity to learn as well as a challenge. The article explains why user research should always include disabled users from a wide range of backgrounds, with various disabilities and diverse characteristics. It highlights some key practices that can be helpful to doing digital user research successfully. The impact of involving researchers from various teams and asking users to write up their stories is explained, concluding with a summary of the key benefits experienced by all through the process.

Peer Observation for Online Distance Learning Tutors

Walker, R. (2015). Peer observation for online distance learning tutors: creating the conditions for effective peer exchange. European Journal of Open, Distance and E-Learning. First published: 19 February 2015.

This article explores how online distance learning tutors working within a higher education context may be supported in their professional development through participation on an institutional peer observation programme. Drawing on the reflections of participants from two cohorts (2011 and 2012) at the University of York, the article reviews the learning outcomes arising from the peer observation process and investigates the necessary conditions for fostering critical reflection on practice between tutors. Feedback from participants highlighted the importance of investing time in relationship-building at the outset of the process – a necessary first step before free-ranging and critical exchanges can flourish between partners. Pairings which invested time at this stage appeared to develop greater levels of trust, enabling them to probe their tutoring practices in a more critical way and explore areas of perceived weakness as well as tackling emergent themes in their dialogue. These observations have informed the development of a guidance framework for peer exchange at the University of York, which is summarised in the concluding part of this paper.

Blended problem-based learning

Walker, R. (2014) Blended problem-based learning: designing collaboration opportunities for unguided group research through the use of Web 2.0 tools. In V. Hodgson, D. McConnell, M. de Laat & T. Ryberg (eds.) The Design, Experience and Practice of Networked Learning, (chapter 9, pp.165 -182). Springer International Publishing: New York.

This chapter explores the challenges of designing a networked approach to problem based learning, encouraging students to engage in collaborative and interdependent learning online. The chapter reports on a blended design for a postgraduate law programme following a problem-based learning (PBL) curriculum, which introduced group wiki and blogging tools for students to use in a series of unguided group research activities. Following a face-to-face PBL session where participants were presented with a new problem and brainstormed learning outcomes and tasks as a framework to solve it, the virtual tools were then employed to support discussion and sharing of research outside the classroom, leading to the production of a collaborative solution by the group.

Instructional Design for Class-Based and Computer-Mediated Learning

Walker, R, & Baets, W. (2008) Instructional Design for Class-Based and Computer-Mediated Learning: Creating the Right Blend for Student-Centred Learning. In R. Donnelly & F. McSweeney (Eds.), Applied E-Learning and E-Teaching in Higher Education (pp. 241 – 261). Information Science Reference: New York.

Blended learning occupies a prominent place within higher education teaching strategies, yet there is no clear definition for what we mean by this term as an instructional approach. In this chapter we present a working definition for blended learning that is based around a learner-centred framework, and outline three instructional models for blended course design in support of student-centred learning. We discuss the reception of these models by students and their relevance to Net Generation learners in promoting socially active learning through collaboration and experience sharing. Drawing together the lessons learned from a series of course experiments, we present an instructional framework for course designers, focusing on the key phases in the delivery of a blended course and the accompanying instructional responsibilities which underpin this instructional approach.

Effecting institutional change through e-learning

Beastall, L. & Walker R. (2006) Effecting institutional change through e-learning: An implementation model for VLE deployment at the University of York. Journal of Organisational Transformation and Social Change, Vol. 3:3, pp 285-299.

This paper offers a description of an implementation model for e-learning and organisational change, which is currently being employed at the University of York, UK. Discussion focuses on the need for effective project management and an approach to change management that is flexible and able to vary in pace according to the needs of the individual staff, students and departments. The York approach involves a four year cycle of pilot projects and evaluation, culminating in a full availability roll out in 2008/9. This work in progress concludes provisionally that successful change management relies on clear strategic ‘top down’ management combined with ‘bottom up’ active involvement in order to successfully implement sustainable change that is pedagogically sound, yet retains a clear focus on the needs of the students.

Supporting and Enabling Video Use

Julie Allinson, Wayne Britcliffe & Anthony Leonard (2010) Supporting and Enabling Video Use – Feature article in BUFVC ‘Viewfinder’ magazine, Viewfinder, June 2010 No. 79, pp 9-11. The storage and delivery of video content in education is continually subject to the push pull of technology and resource allocation. Julie Allinson, Wayne Britcliffe and Anthony Leonard (University of York) desribe some of the latest ways in which they manage their video content – from creation to access.The BUFVC are the British Universities Film and Video Council.

Addressing Issues of Plagiarism in the First Year

Katy Mann, Julie Usher and Zoe Devlin (2010) Addressing Issues of Plagiarism in the First Year: Easing Cultural Transition Through Peer-to-Peer Interaction, Supporting the First Year Student Experience Through the use of Learning Technologies, pp 29 and pp 48-49. Two separate case studies appearing in a publication published by Middlesex Univeristy and the The Higher Education Academy. The publication was edited by Kyriaki Anagnostopoulou and Deeba Parmar on behalf of the ELFYSE special interest group.”Addressing Issues of Plagiarism in the First Year” outlines an initiative combining face-to-face workshops and online resources for independent study, including access to text matching software (TurnItIn).”Easing Cultural Transition Through Peer-to-Peer Interaction” describes an initiative aimed at providing support for International Students as they move to a new academic culture and a new local environment.

Recorded Lecture Series: Blended Learning

Dr Richard Walker

A series of recorded lectures on blended learning design at the University of York, which has been developed in partnership with Blackboard Inc.

The lectures run through the scoping and planning stages in developing a blended course. The presentations focus on the University’s training methods in supporting staff in course development tasks and offer examples of good practice in blended learning design across the University.

The lectures were released in April 2011 and are available at micro-site is a joint initiative between Blackboard and the E-Learning Development Team.

For further details on the lecture series, please contact Dr Richard Walker:

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