Team Research Papers & Recorded Lectures


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.

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Facilitating peer-led group research through virtual collaboration spaces: an exploratory research study

Peer-led group learning is a variation of collaborative learning and is based on ‘small groups of students meeting regularly with a peer – one who has additional expertise in the subject matter – to work on problems collaboratively’ (Pazos, Micari, and Light 2010). In this study, we explored how a Slack team environment could be used in a blended course design to support students working remotely on individual research projects, helping them in collaborative trouble-shooting and problem-solving activities with their ‘near peer’. We drew on lessons learned from an initial trial (2017–2018 cohort) to inform a revised peer-led research design (2018–2019 cohort).

Our findings demonstrate the potential of collaborative platforms such as Slack to support near-peer learning, providing distinct channels for questioning, ideas sharing and agile problem-solving support in response to individual queries. The peer-led support contributed to high levels of engagement with the project work and deeper learning, helping less confident students to learn from group members and achieve positive outcomes in their own project work. We discuss the necessary conditions for effective peer-led learning to take place within a virtual space – identifying the clear communication of instructional roles, socialisation of students and responsiveness of near peers as factors influencing the adoption of the targeted learning methods – which we addressed in our revised peer-led design.

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Facilitating active learning opportunities for students through the use of technology-enhanced learning tools: the case for pedagogic innovation and change

This chapter reflects on recent developments in the adoption technology enhanced learning (TEL) tools across the UK higher education sector – in particular the rise of student-controlled and creative technologies to promote information, knowledge-sharing and networking in learning and teaching activities.  Current generations of students are now arriving on campus with the expectation that their technologies will seamlessly interconnect with university services and support a flexible and personalised learning experience. The paper discusses the impact of these technological developments on the delivery of campus-based courses – specifically the scope that learning technologies now present for innovation in the delivery of the taught curriculum.

Through a presentation of case examples from the University of York we consider how the affordances of learning technologies may be applied to support active learning opportunities for students across various modes of engagement, ranging from interleaved practice (formative assessment) to student-led teaching and content creation. We discuss the challenges that institutions face in encouraging academic staff to engage with TEL tools in a new role as facilitators and designers of active student learning, reflecting on the case for pedagogic innovation and change.

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Peer observation and review of online teaching

Peer observation of online teaching is primarily a development technique for the individuals involved, offering an opportunity for participants to enhance their own practice in establishing effective strategies to support online learning. It has emerged from a prior tradition of peer review of classroom teaching, which is based upon face-to-face observations of teaching in order to improve understanding of behaviours and actions bound up in instructional practice (Shortland, 2017). Peer observation of online teaching supports similar goals to conventional observation of classroom teaching in seeking to inform and inspire changes in instructional practice – with the key difference being that participants are encouraged to reflect on teaching identity and responsibilities within a digital domain, building close associations between learning, teaching and technology. It is important to note though that peer review of online teaching is not primarily focused on technology usage in the sense of offering ‘how to’ guidance to instructors to become proficient in the use of specific tools. In contrast, it is a pedagogically-led process, encouraging participants to examine instructional approaches supported within a digital environment. This chapter discusses the emergence of peer review of online teaching as a development technique and outlines the key stages and outcomes which may arise from an effective peer exchange.

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Designing engaging assessment through the use of social media and collaborative technologies

This chapter discusses design approaches for the effective use of technology in assessment activities which support an ‘assessment as learning’ strategy (McDowell, 2012). The focus is on assessment activities that support conceptual learning and the development of transferable skills for academic study and the workplace.

The chapter explores how social media and collaborative technologies may be combined to support assessment activities that encourage students to master conceptual learning, as well as to demonstrate their development of key transferable digital communication and employability skills. The challenges in making the transition from traditional assessment to activities with a more explicit learning focus are addressed, with a presentation of models which are intended to help with the review and planning of assessment tasks incorporating the use of technology at a module or programme level.

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Cross-institutional peer observation by online tutors: Sharing practice ‘outside the family’

While increasingly widespread, teaching online can be a solo endeavour. In this paper we consider how peer exchange between online tutors from different institutions may offer a solution to this professional isolation. We report on a cross-institutional peer observation and mentoring programme between the Universities of York (UK) and Waikato (New Zealand), designed to support tutors’ personal development through online peer exchange. Our findings reveal that tutors’ use of synchronous conferencing tools was influential in shaping the relationship between participants on the programme. Exposure to diversity served to challenge institutional pedagogical norms. We review the engagement strategies and emergent learning outcomes for participants, and discuss the necessary conditions of openness and commitment for effective peer exchange between online tutors from different cultural and institutional contexts.

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Designing for Learner Engagement with Computer-based Testing

The issues influencing student engagement with high-stakes computer-based exams were investigated, drawing on feedback from two cohorts of international MA Education students encountering this assessment method for the first time. Qualitative data from surveys and focus groups on the students’ examination experience were analysed, leading to the identification of engagement issues in the delivery of high-stakes computer-based assessments.The exam combined short-answer open-response questions with multiple-choice-style items to assess knowledge and understanding of research methods. The findings suggest that engagement with computer-based testing depends, to a lesser extent, on students’ general levels of digital literacy and, to a greater extent, on their information technology (IT) proficiency for assessment and their ability to adapt their test-taking strategies, including organisational and cognitive strategies, to the online assessment environment. The socialisation and preparation of students for computer-based testing therefore emerge as key responsibilities for instructors to address, with students requesting increased opportunities for practice and training to develop the IT skills and test-taking strategies necessary to succeed in computer-based examinations. These findings and their implications in terms of instructional responsibilities form the basis of a proposal for a framework for Learner Engagement with e-Assessment Practices.

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Peer Observation for Online Distance Learning Tutors: Creating the Conditions for Effective Peer Exchange

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.

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Blended problem-based learning: designing collaboration opportunities for unguided group research through the use of Web 2.0 tools

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.

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Instructional Design for Class-Based and Computer-Mediated Learning: Creating the Right Blend for Student-Centred Learning

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.

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Effecting institutional change through e-learning: An implementation model for VLE deployment at the University of York

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.

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Supporting and Enabling Video Use – Feature article in BUFVC ‘Viewfinder’ magazine

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.

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Addressing Issues of Plagiarism in the First YearEasing Cultural Transition Through Peer-to-Peer Interaction

  • Katy Mann, Julie Usher and Zoe Devlin (2010) 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.

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Recorded Lectures

Blended Learning Recorded Lecture Series

  • Dr Richard Walker – Blended Learning Recorded Lecture Series

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 as part of 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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