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Understanding our evolving digital practice: Scholarship and research of teaching

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The regular Experiences in Digital Learning webinars from the Centre for Online and Distance Education and the University of London Institute in Paris provide the opportunity to explore the rapid innovations and changes we are seeing in digital learning, teaching and assessment. This webinar series is in its third year and this year we are focussing on: The role of digital in face-to-face teaching Our next Experience in Digital Learning webinar is scheduled to take place on Thursday 1 June 2023 at 14.00 BST. In this webinar we will focus on research and scholarship of our evolving digital practice. Please note, this event has been moved from 9 February 2023.

Digital, online, and blended learning are increasingly part of the work that all educators engage with now, with face-to-face teaching augmented and extended through digital means. Developing your practice can be supported and enhanced through engagement with research and scholarship of teaching. This webinar will help to support approaches to scholarship and research of teaching. This will be an opportunity for the panel and audience to consider the ways in which our evolving digital practice can be reflected upon and informed by scholarship and research.


A panel of distinguished speakers will lead the discussion and engage with other participants to address these issues, led by CODE fellow Professor Norbert Pachler. The panellists are:

  • Jess Humphreys, Associate Professor, Academic Development Centre, University of Warwick and Dr Denise M. Sweeney, Associate Professor in Higher Education, School of Education, University of Nottingham, will discuss the ALT ELESIG Scholar Scheme: supporting TEL colleagues to reshape their identities through SoTL engagement.
  • Peter Felten is professor of history, executive director of the Center for Engaged Learning, and assistant provost for teaching and learning at Elon University. Peter will explore the way in which research and scholarship can be built into our educational practice. 

Presentation summaries

Jess Humphreys and Denise M. Sweeney – The ALT ELESIG Scholar Scheme: supporting TEL colleagues to reshape their identities through SoTL engagement

The pivot to online learning involved colleagues from academic and professional services positions working to develop and evaluate potential contributions of technology to education, such as online teaching and learning strategies (Bligh, 2020). For many involved in this process conducting educational research has been a daunting and challenging area of practice (Trigwell et al., 2000), yet it is essential if we are to understand how these developments are impacting upon the higher education landscape and their longer-term consequences. In 2021, the ALT-ELESIG organising committee identified a gap in the provision of support for higher education staff around technology enhanced learning within the scholarship of teaching and learning (SoTL). 
The ALT ELESIG Scholar Scheme (pilot) was created to provide interdisciplinary support for colleagues who wanted to develop professionally in a more scholarly manner across teaching and educational technology to promote learning. (Tight, 2017; Bligh 2020). The pilot was designed to support “educational leaders and teaching-focused academics as they navigate SoTL” (Webb and Tierney. 2019). The Scholar Scheme was launched in Spring 2021, bringing together colleagues from across the UK paired up as ‘advisors’ and ‘scholars.
This webinar will present initial research findings from a research project exploring the experiences of scholars and advisors in the pilot scheme and the lessons learnt from being part of the scheme. This longitudinal, multi-institutional research project evaluated the experiences of scholars and advisors taking part in the scholar scheme using a qualitative approach based on surveys, confidence logs and semi-structured interviews. 

This research explores the discomfort experienced by some on their SoTL journey due to the challenges to their identity as a teacher, researcher, practitioner, and colleague. The initial findings highlight the need for a multidisciplinary community and collaborative approach across institutions to contribute to “innovation and improvement in teaching and learning” (Miller-Young et al, 2018.) 

Peter Felton - From pandemic to endemic teaching: reflections on learning, well-being, research, and practice in a time of disruption

In this talk, we’ll start with an image from Arundhati Roy, who observed in April 2020 that pandemics historically often function as “a portal, a gateway between one world and the next” because they force “humans to break with the past and imagine their world anew.” What would we see if today we imagined anew higher education teaching and learning? What evidence- and experienced-informed practices and structures would be at the heart of our practice, and what would we leave behind? My vision (2022) centers on context, learning, equity, agency, and relationships. I’ll invite participants to consider their own visions for the future, and to discuss how we might – alone and together – use research from before and during the pandemic to enhance our teaching practice.

Presenter details

Jess Humphreys. Associate Professor, Academic Development Centre, University of Warwick

Jess is course lead on the Postgraduate Award in Technology Enhanced Learning, a project based course for staff leading to FHEA and 30 CATs. She is also lead of the Learning Design Consultancy Unit (LDCU) established in response to the pivot to online teaching and learning. The LDCU brings together colleagues from academic development, academic technology and staff and students across the institution to support the design of blended teaching and learning. The impact of the LDCU work has recently been recognised nationally with an Advance HE Collaborative Award for Teaching Excellence (CATE) in 2022. Jess is a Senior Fellow (SFHEA) and holds Senior Certified Member of the Association of Learning Technology. She is currently vice-chair of ALT-ELESIG (formally the Evaluation Learner Experiences of E-learning Special Interest Group). 

Jess has a particular interest in learner centred design, exploring the role design thinking can play in facilitating new approaches to teaching and learning. She is also interested in the opportunities and challenges that digital education affords for the accessibility and inclusive learning experiences.

Dr Denise M. Sweeney, Associate Professor in Higher Education, School of Education, University of Nottingham

Denise currently teaches on the Postgraduate Certificate in Higher Education (PGCHE) for internal academic staff and leads on the new Postgraduate Certificate in Higher Education Global online distance course.
Denise began her career as a teacher of English to adult migrants and refugees in Sydney, Australia. Her teaching expertise led to a career move to educational design where she demonstrated a proven track record in all aspects of the design, development, evaluation, and dissemination of learning and teaching resources using a range of educational media in both vocational and higher education.

Her research interests include educational technology use to promote university learning, learning design in higher education and learner experience in higher education.

She was the former Chair of ALT-ELESIG (formally the Evaluation Learner Experiences of E-learning Special Interest Group) and is currently a member of the organising committee.

Peter Felten, Professor of History, Executive Director of the Center for Engaged Learning, and Assistant Provost for Teaching and Learning, Elon University (US)

Peter’s research focuses on learning and teaching in higher education, with particular attention to the people and relationships involved in this work. He has published six books about undergraduate education including (with Leo Lambert) Relationship-Rich Education: How Human Connections Drive Success in College (Johns Hopkins University Press, 2020). His next book, a student guide to relationship-rich education, is co-authored with Isis Artze-Vega, Leo Lambert, and Oscar Miranda Tapia, will be published by Johns Hopkins in 2023 (with an open access online version free to all readers). He is on the advisory board of the (US) National Survey of Student Engagement and is a fellow of the Gardner Institute, a foundation that works to advance equity, justice, and upward social mobility through higher education. During the 2022-2023 academic year, he is a Fulbright Canada Distinguished Chair in the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning, at Carleton University in Ottawa.