Centre for Online and Distance Education


The latest news from the Centre for Online and Distance Education (CODE). You can also view our blog for opinion pieces.

View our news from 2019.

Online teaching at City, University of London


The latest news from the Centre for Online and Distance Education (CODE). You can also view our blog for opinion pieces.

View our news from 2019.

Latest news

Literacies are on the rise. What’s going on?

We noticed the increasing attention being paid to literacies of various kinds in higher education. A small CODE project with staff from across the University of London set out to investigate. Some tentative conclusions:

Literacies are growing in number. They currently include, and with many overlaps, at least media literacy, digital literacy, information literacy, copyright literacy, numerical literacy (numeracy?), assessment literacy, employability (careers literacy), library literacy, cultural literacy, academic literacies, research literacy, visual literacy, disability awareness (disability literacy?), environmental awareness (environmental literacy?), and a range of subject literacies, including psychological literacy.

Literacies generally describe capabilities; things that students and graduates can or should be able to do, going beyond what students should simply know;

Literacies help to address the sometimes uncomfortable relationship that higher education has with ‘skills’; and

Literacies are  valuable tools for exploring the problematic relationships between knowledge and the ability to do productive things to and with knowledge.

The work was led for CDE by David Baume, with CDE Fellows Matt Philpot (School of Advanced Study) and Julie Voce (City, University of London), and Elizabeth Wilkinson of The Careers Group, University of London, and Sandra Tury, Head of the University of London Online Library.

Read a longer (but still brief) report.

Quality assurance in assessment webinar

CDE Fellow Alan Tait will be chairing an ICDE webinar on International reflections on lessons learned during the COVID-I9 pandemic, with a particular focus on quality assurance in assessment. Tuesday 22 September at 16:00 CET. 

Register for your free place.

Soaring demand for distance learning MOOC

The start of the Covid-19 crisis in the UK coincided with a huge spike in interest in the Bloomsbury Learning Environment’s Massive Open Online Course, Get Interactive: Practical Teaching with Technology (Opens in new window). The MOOC is a three-week exploration of some of the popular technologies that educators use to make their learning engaging, interactive and dynamic. The precipitous growth in engagement with this course shows just how important teaching at a distance with technology skills are right now and the value of good quality distance learning resources like this course. Since the introduction of lock-down measures in the Spring, monthly active learners on the course have risen from around 100 to over 1,500 per month. CDE Fellow Sarah Sherman, who co-produced the MOOC, said. “I am immensely proud of our MOOC and delighted that it has been supporting so many people across the world since the pandemic changed the way we teach.”

PGCHE graduate wins Best Teaching award

Aiman Abousher,  Senior Lecturer and Marketing Management Programme Leader at the British University Vietnam and graduate of the UoL LTHE programme has won the BUV ‘Dean’s Award – Best Teaching Award’ for 2020. This award is given to a faculty member who has offered outstanding teaching to students over the first half of 2020 and Aiman was nominated for his commitment to BUV students in the classroom as well as through his pastoral support. Aiman, who also won the 2019 Vice Chancellor's Teaching Excellence Award at BUV,  commented on his latest success: "I would like to thank you and your PGCHE Team for their excellent training, knowledge and skills I have learnt and developed in supporting and enhancing students learning, teaching and assessment...This is truly a dream come true for me."

The new normal: why it’s the right time to improve your digital skillset

In a recent Guardian online article, CDE Fellow Dr Marco Gillies argues that, in a post-Covid-19 world it has never been so important, or so easy, to acquire digital skills.

Heeding lessons from international distance learning

"Pakistan’s higher education contract with students and faculty needs to be rewritten when it comes to distance and online learning." 

In an article for University world news, Kholah Malik, dean and director of quality assurance and internationalisation at the Millennium Universal College, Pakistan and former PGC LTHE participant analyses the impact of Covid-19 on higher education in Pakistan and speculates on the future on online learning.

Webinar - Developing Together: Learning Developers and Academic Developers 

You are invited to this webinar on Wednesday 29th July, 11.00-12.00 BST. The aims are:

  • To help learning developers and academic developers get to know better what each other does, and
  • To explore ways in which learning development and academic development can work more closely and effectively together within their institutions

Carina Buckley, ALDinHE Co-Chair, will introduce learning development to academic developers, and

CDE Fellow David Baume, who was the founding Chair of SEDA, will introduce academic development to learning developers

The most important part of the webinar will be learning developers and academic developers telling brief stories about collaboration between these two development functions. Of course there will be Q&A, and live chat alongside. This part of the webinar will only work if you tell some stories. So, as well as inviting you to the webinar, Carina and David also invite you to send us, ahead of time, brief  stories about collaboration. If you have a story, or an idea for a story, please contact us:

Carina Buckley, carina.buckley@solent.ac.uk

David Baume, david@davidbaume.com

Whether we are able to include your story in the webinar or not, we have created a repository for stories and resources about collaboration. It’s very thin at the moment. But, with your help, it will grow. These stories and resources will be complementary to the excellent resources already provided by, in this case, ALDinHE and SEDA. We hope that, over time, the repository will grow to contain stories about collaboration much more widely across developers and development functions in higher education, to support wider cooperation. But we are starting here

We look forward very much to hearing from you with stories, and to welcoming you to this webinar. Please register here.

CODE at JISC online event

Dr Linda Amrane-Cooper, Head of CODE will be contributing to the JISC online event Learning and teaching reimagined: best emerging practice? on Wednesday 16 July. Linda’s lightening talk will focus on Rethinking Assessment and Feedback. The event provides the opportunity  to explore what has been learnt so far from the rapid roll out of online learning, teaching and assessment and to identify characteristics for success. The event is part of the learning and teaching reimagined programme with UUK, Advance HE and Emerge Education which UoL and the Centre for Distance Education are contributing to.

Student wins CODE Learning Gain Award

UoL student Daniel Linton has been awarded a CODE prize for his achievement on the PGC LTHE. Unlike many awards that acknowledge top levels of performance, this prize is awarded each year by CODE to students who demonstrate the most significant improvement in their performance over the course of their study, recognising that some students start much further back in the field than others.

Commenting on his award, Daniel said “I feel very grateful that my improvement from my first assignment to my final assignment was recognised. It is a testament to the programme that it was able to increase my motivation and ability. I put this down to the fascinating topics and challenging assignments.

The PGC LTHE aims to develop students’ skills, understanding of and strategies in teaching, learning and assessment in face-to-face teaching and it offers graduates University of London Worldwide Recognised Tutor status. Reflecting on this Daniel observed “I feel as though I am now able to make informed judgements about course development and delivery. I have developed a more formed set of guiding principles for the purpose of Higher Education. My thoughts and actions towards education are more student-focussed in a deeper sense - now I ask what will benefit the student's development in the long term.”

Moving handwritten exam papers online at City

Like other universities, we were faced with the challenge of moving examinations online in response to Covid-19 restrictions on movement and gatherings, reports Sandra Partington, Senior Educational Technologist at City, University of London. In particular we needed an alternative for the submission of handwritten answer papers for exams in actuarial science, engineering, economics and mathematics, where it is essential to write out answers and show working.

The aim was to develop an easy to use and inclusive environment in which to run, mark and manage large scale submissions, for our academic staff, students and examination teams to work with.

City University’s Learning Enhancement and Development Directorate worked across team and subject areas to identify, develop and test an appropriate solution. Our advice was to recommend an open book approach and to give a 24-hour window in which to take part. Students would be required to scan and upload their written calculations and mobile phones would be an emergency option in the case of an internet outage when submitting exam answers. The  new examination environment had to be easy to use and accessible, enabling all to take part and reducing the number of steps required to submit online. For example, we adopted the view that a student with poor connectivity or limited devices, could be described as vulnerable in terms of ability to submit, but should still be able to take part in an exam (if they wished to), using our mobile friendly assessment routes. We also identified the needs of staff who may not have used this kind or combination of technology in their teaching and thus who might find it difficult to mark online, using a combination of scanning apps, One Drive and Moodle. 

On the technical side we spent time finding, testing and recommending scanning apps, such as Microsoft Lens and Adobe Scan,  and designed an exam and marking workflow which involved recommending key assignment settings for our virtual learning environment, including submission types, availability of the assignment and feedback settings. To support the new approach we created a number of Open access resources for students and staff:

The exam period started in  May  and reports are that the new system  is working well.

Unexpected outcomes

Along the way we realised that the principles we had developed for thinking around the inclusive and accessible nature of the assessment design could be applied in future to all types of online examinations, not just hand-written ones. And, as a consequence of this work, we have developed stronger relationships with academics working in numerate disciplines. This has now led on to further work to investigate technologies, such as virtual whiteboards and portable visualisers/drawing tablets, to support online teaching in these areas.

Journalism goes online at City, University of London

‘Political Headlines’ gives City’s MA Journalism students the opportunity to meet, question and learn from top journalists and politicians. But, during Covid-19 lockdown, how do you run a module that involves high profile guests answering questions from students live? This blog post by Peter Kogan describes how City's Educational Technology Team helped to reshape the components and delivery of the module to work 100% online using asynchronous and synchronous activities in order to give students a rich learning experience. Over 100 Master’s Journalism students had the opportunity to question live Laura Kuenssberg, Gary Gibbon, Angela Rayner, Lord Falconer, Chris Mason, Professor Anand Menon, Nigel Evans MP, Michael Cockerell, Kate McCann, Paddy O’Connell, Esme Wren and more.

CODE Director is Special Guest and Invited Speaker at International Symposium on ‘COVID-19 & Beyond: The New Normal in HEIs’.

CODE Director Dr Linda Amrane-Cooper was invited to speak on 'Teaching Pedagogies of the future' at an international symposium organised in India by J. C. Bose University of Science and Technology, YMCA, Faridabad, a Haryana State Government University on 10th June, 2020. Linda was one of four special guests leading the event which was attended by around 490 participants.

Quick Wins: moving teaching online at Goldsmiths

At Goldsmiths we identified the need to help staff who were not familiar with online teaching to move their courses online within the space of a week at the beginning of lockdown, reports CDE Fellow Marco Gillies. An important part of the solution was a short online course called 'Quick Wins', designed by Peter Roberts and colleagues in the Teaching and Learning Innovation Centre (TaLIC). The title was meant to indicate that this was aimed at the emergency online teaching situation and that we did not have unrealistic expectations of what staff would achieve. 

The primary aim was to use the VLE to provide guidance and tips on moving online. However, the secondary aim was to do this in a way that gave participants the experience of learning online and of using the online activities that we were suggesting. For example, videos were created on the use of video in teaching, and these videos used interactive features of Panopto such as chat and in video questions. A particularly successful element was the use of forums. We modelled the use of an ice-breaker forum to encourage discussion and a social forum for participants to share their (non-teaching) experiences of lockdown. These elements encouraged a lively community, which acted as a hub for academics to share their good practice and successes in online teaching. A number of staff reported that they had tried new things as a result - with success. In addition we provided webinars and a daily 'drop-in' using BigBlueButton where staff came along with questions / suggestions etc. This both provided an effective space for support and a model of effective online, interactive video teaching.

Managing Change - Challenging Existing Practice, 11 June, 11:00-15:00 BST

CDE Director Linda Amrane-Cooper is contributing to an online event about managing change, especially relevant during the Covid-19 pandemic where everyone has needed to adapt to online teaching delivery and support. This event has been jointly organised between ALT East England and the East Midlands Learning Technologists’ Group and will feature short presentations and workshops discussing ideas, case studies and research into learning technologies for managing change. 

Register for the event.

UUKi recommends CODE Covid support resources

UUKi is the international arm of Universities UK, representing UK universities and acting​ in their collective interests​ globally​. Their latest Transnational Education Network update provides links to several Covid support resources and activities mounted by CODE.

ICDE Webinar: International reflections on lessons learned during Covid-19 

Join us for the first webinar in the series hosted by the ICDE Quality Network. The topic of this series is "International reflections on lessons learning during the Covid-19 pandemic" looking specifically at quality assurance in assessment. Join to hear speakers Philip Uys, Dr. Souma Alhaj Ali, and CDE Fellow Alan Tait reflect on Oceania and Arab regions. Jun 11, 2020 08:00 am GMT.

Recording links and presentation slides

After Covid-19: Career planning for global graduates

As part of our development of the University of London student experience and careers support, the Career Planning Micro-Module launched on the student portal in March 2020. Available to all 50,000 University of London students studying by distance and flexible learning, it provides structured support for developing career plans for a changing working world, where digital disruption and economic shocks are prevalent. 
Enriched by content from global employers and University of London alumni, the micro-module guides students through a self-directed learning journey. They explore the likely personal careers impact of global employment trends, employers' expectations of future-facing graduate competencies and evolving conventions in professional self-presentation. The pedagogical expertise of the University of London PG Certificate LTHE informed the learning design, through which self-evaluation drives learning towards an individualised and certificated learning outcome. 

Student reception has been positive with 11,000 views in the first 8 weeks of access and 27% rate of sustained engagement. As one student from Singapore says, "I feel that this is pitched at the right level…it can guide the students through career planning with the correct thought process as they plan their careers”. That feedback highlights the power of well-designed and scaffolded self-directed learning. To find out more contact Elizabeth Wilkinson.

Student online societies combat lock-down isolation

With student input, the University of London Student Experience team have launched three online societies this year, that are helping with feelings of isolation during lock-down: Book Club, World Recipes and Film and TV societies.  We shall shortly be adding a fourth which will be a Debate Club.With almost 8000 views and over 500 active users, we are seeing lots of cross-programme community engagement – from sharing recipes, to discussing books and film.

CODE Webinars

The Centre for Online and Distance Education is keen to provide support and development for those working in online education during these unprecedented times. As part of our portfolio of support, we shall be holding two webinars to further assist discussion, planning and development:

Thursday 28 May 2020 13.00 – 14.00 Jumping online: What have we learned?

Tuesday 23 June 2020 11.30 – 12.30 Jumping online: Sustaining quality learning

In these webinars we shall be providing some short inputs from Centre for Online and Distance Education practitioners on a range of topics including supporting peer engagement, online assessment, online pedagogy, curriculum design and quality, but the emphasis will be on sharing issues, approaches and solutions arising from the impact of the pandemic.

See CODE Events for more details, how to register and webinar recordings.

Update on CODE Covid related activity 

While colleagues across the University federation and further afield have been striving to shift courses online and modify examination plans in response to Covid-19 and the lock-down, CDE has been working to provide support and guidance.

  • A CODE Covid help page was set up to offer links to selected resources to help colleagues new to distance learning move their teaching and assessment online. 
  • RIDE 2020 recordings and resources are now all live on the website. 
  • A number of our resources are now available on the UoL YouTube channel to support teaching online, here is an example.
  • University of London is now part of the Commonwealth of Learning/UNESCO Open Door project. We are working on getting further resources and links built with COL.
  • QAA Scotland is incorporating our CODE covid page into their teaching online resources.
  • CODE content has also been incorporated into the International Council for Open and Distance Education Knowledge Hub and posted via the ICDE media channels. 
  • Our Reflective Tool for emergency responses to teaching online will be launched next week.
  • Linda Amrane-Cooper, the Director of CDE presented at the SAS Forum last week on supporting research in an online context and has been asked to run an input on flipped classroom approaches.
  • CODE Fellow Alan Tait contributed  to a webinar for the International Education department at UCL.
  • CODE will be hosting a panel discussion in early 2020/2021 on the Question of the Impact of Covid on perceptions around online/distance education (has it killed it or brought it to life?)
  • A series of practical webinars/workshops will run from October to December.
  • We are running two Covid-19 related Webinars in May and June.
  • We are working on a short publication concerning the response to covid across the globe – drawing on input from the 100+ students on the PGC LTHE.

Visiting scholars scheme

Our scheme may be particularly useful for those looking to develop their skills and expertise in online education in response to longer term moves to digital education triggered by the Coronavirus.

The CODE Visiting Scholars scheme is open to enquiries from interested individuals who wish to engage in projects and activities concerned with high quality teaching and research in open and distance learning locally, nationally and internationally. Placements at CODE usually last for between four and six months. The nature of the placement can vary from specific research projects, to skills development. A bespoke programme of activities is developed to support the intended outcomes for the placement. Read more about the scheme (PDF).

Roger Mills Awards celebrated

This year’s winners of the Roger Mills Award for Innovation in Learning and Teaching were presented with their awards by Vice Chancellor Wendy Thomson at a ceremony during the RIDE 2020 conference. This year there were two joint winning teams: The University of London Careers Group, led by Laura Brammar and the University of London Centre for Distance Education, led by Gwyneth Hughes. See the CDE Roger Mills Award Web pages for details of the winning projects.

UoL resources to help ICDE fight back against Coronavirus

The University of London Bloomsbury Learning Environment online course ‘Get Interactive: Practical Teaching with Technology’, has been advertised on social media by the International Council for Distance Education (ICDE) to help educators all over the world to shift to online and distance learning provision as schools and universities are forced to shut down campuses.

ICDE, which, as the leading global membership organization for open, online and distance education is making available relevant resources for distance and online teaching amid the pandemic, has also listed the Open and Distance Learning Planning workbook, developed by CDE on its “Tips for Distance and Online Teaching” website page.

Get Interactive: Practice Teaching with Technology is a free, three-week exploration of some of the popular technologies that educators use to make their learning engaging, interactive and dynamic. It is aimed at educators who have little experience using online tools and technology for teaching purposes but who have basic familiarity with the Internet, online learning environments and computers in general. The course is most relevant for teachers, lecturers and instructors of adults and older children (i.e., secondary school, college, further education, higher education, continuing education).

The Open and Distance Learning Planning workbook was developed for a workshop to support capacity building for Open and Distance Learning in Nigeria. The main aim of this workshop was to provide information, ideas, resources and support for participants to plan the next stages of development of Open and Distance Learning (ODL) in their institution, whatever their role. The workbook documents 15 sessions, with activities and resources. It is freely available and adaptable under a Creative Commons license BY-NC-SA.

"I was so happy to have gone to RIDE 2020"

Anna Greathead, a student on the Open University MA in Open and Distance Education, reflects on her experience of attending this year's RIDE conference in four detailed blog posts:

See also other blogs about RIDE 2020 on the CODE Director's blog.

Disruption is not your friend

This year’s Research in Distance Education (RIDE) conference took ‘Examining Disruptive Innovations in Distance Education’ as its theme, which some might view as ironic since attendance by some presenters and participants was disrupted by a surge in Coronavirus in the same week as the conference. Keynote speaker Professor Martin Weller, The Open University, considerately gave his address via a remote link rather than risk sharing his cough with the rest of the conference attendees. Observing that "disruption is not your friend" (and we certainly knew it last week) Martin adopted the position that disruption is a poor model for education and that Open Education is a much better alternative. You can read Martin’s argument on his blog and he has posted a video recording of it on YouTube.

Strategic approaches to developing Institutional capability for high quality ODL

Over 40 Vice Chancellors, Directors , Deans and other senior managers attended the latest in a series of ODL capacity-building workshops jointly organised by the Nigerian National Universities Commission and the University of London Centre for Distance Education. 

Students as Partners in Mentorship Scheme

Alumni have been transcribing and analysing data evaluating a new, award-winning mentorship scheme for a co-authored journal manuscript. The 2017/18 CODE-funded scheme involves alumni supporting distance learning (DL) students undertaking a research project on the MSc in Public Health at LSHTM. The scheme received early recognition when the Project Module Organisers received an LSHTM Director’s Award in 2018. Since then, staff, students and alumni have worked closely together as partners on the associated CODE-funded research project to evaluate the scheme.

Anna Foss, the Principal Investigator, said “It feels so exciting for me to work with alumni on educational research in this way - they’ve given so much!” while a mentor said “Doing this exercise was really gratifying.” 

Read the interim summary report for more details of the findings and the full list of student partners and other investigators involved

Teaching and Research Awards 2020 announced

CODE is pleased to announce the winners of the 2019/20 Teaching and Research Awards.

CODE Fellow is ICDE ambassador

Alan Tait, CODE Fellow and former ICDE Executive Committee Member has been selected as one of 35 ambassadors representing 25 countries to undertake activities to ensure that the 29th ICDE World Conference is truly representative of the global ICDE community. The group of voluntary 2021 ICDE World Conference Ambassadors are well-renowned internationally and regionally as leading advocates for bringing accessible, equitable education to all through online, open and distance education.

Virtual Open Day for PG Cert LTHE

Join us at the PG Cert Learning and Teaching in Higher Education Virtual Open Day session on Wednesday 26 February 2020 at 15:30. We shall be talking about the programme structure, how you can study and more: #UniversityofLondonVirtualOpenDay2020

RIDE2020 conference booking now open

On 13 March 2020 the Centre for Distance Education hosts its 14th annual Research in Distance Education (and eLearning) Conference in London’s iconic Senate House, with a theme of Examining disruptive innovations in distance education. For more details see the conference programme. Make sure you reserve your place by booking online.

East African teacher educators learning at a distance

A new report by Dr Jennie Golding, Associate Professor Mathematics Education at UCL IoE, documents a recent CODE Teaching and Research Award-funded  project that adapted a model for mixed mode teacher development courses for South Africans from deprived areas,for use with mathematics teacher educators in East Africa. The report highlights issues of context-specific content and framing, including effective ‘low tech’ delivery and approaches to overcoming the digital divide.

Prestigious Vice Chancellor’s Award success

Aiman Abousher, British University Vietnam Senior Lecturer in Finance and Programme Leader in Marketing and Management has won the 2019 Vice Chancellor's Teaching Excellence Award at BUV.

Talking about his experience on the University of London PG Certificate Learning and Teaching in Higher Education, an elated Abousher said “I credit this award to the PGCHE – UOL team for their dedication, hard work, support towards my studies, my education, my knowledge, my skills gained, as I applied all the knowledge and skills I read online and learnt from discussion forums to enhance my students learning. My student’s satisfaction towards their learning has recognized me in achieving this prestigious award. Thank you to your and your excellent PGCHE team for all their support towards my studies in this program.”

Developing information capabilities for distance learning students

What capabilities in identifying, accessing, using and referencing information do graduates need? What particular problems and opportunities affect the development of information capabilities through distance learning courses? In particular, how can we reconcile the need to give students ready access to necessary information with the need to help them develop their necessary information capabilities? And how can these problems be solved, these opportunities achieved? A new report from CODE addresses these topics, and offers both analysis and ways forward.