CAP Forum: Research-informed curriculum design: successes and challenges

Our most recent CAP Forum focused on research-informed curriculum design. As a recent Research-informed Teaching Award winner, Dr Line Nyhagen took us through some of her wonderful successes and some of the challenges she has faced in four specific innovative teaching practices which were designed to enhance student engagement.

  • The first is a field visit to a local mosque in order to allow her students to understand ‘lived religion’, where she emphasised that it is important that the pedagogic intention of any field visit is clear. Previously, there had been no field visits in the Social Sciences Department, and so she sought advice from the Geography department on the basics and reflected on what went well and what she could improve after the first year of running the trip. The trip was very successful; the feedback from participating students was overwhelmingly positive, alongside a post on the department newsfeed talking of its success. However, the main challenge she faced was that the attendance on the trip was quite low. The following year, Line took on board feedback on that particular issue and added organised transport and included an assessment element related to the trip that was worth 10%, which dramatically increased the attendance.
  • The second example discussed was a ‘Coursework Topic Approval Forum’ which was used instead of a list of essays from students to select from. It involved students having to use a forum on Learn to get approval and feedback for their coursework title which could be about any topic they were interested in on the module. This fostered the sharing of ideas and allowed transparent formative feedback to be given to all students. Although this had many successes, it generated quite a lot of additional work for Line, and made a small proportion of students uncomfortable. Upon reflection, this year Line has chosen to produce both a list of essay titles and allow students to choose their own titles if they wish, nonetheless they must use the new general coursework forum for any questions related to coursework so that formative feedback continues to be shared among all students. A lot of the discussion afterwards focused on this area and suggested ideas such as having the group as a whole come up with the list of questions and queried why it was online and not in person in a session which was agreed would also work.
  • Line also spoke about ‘Memory Work’ as a method to teach gender and other identities, which is a research method she has used in her own research. This encouraged students to see themselves as both the researcher and the research subject, and allowing students to feel an ownership of the material being used to teach as it was generated by themselves. This in turn increased student engagement. This topic also generated lots of questions and discussion about how the technique could be applied to teaching in other areas, for example as an aid to reflecting on group assignments.
  • The final topic discussed was her ‘In-class Policy Awareness Event’ which she used as a new technique for increasing student engagement this year. She did this by trying to find topics directly relevant to her students, and this year chose sexual harassment policy due to the recent focus of the NUS on the topic, as well as it being one of her students’ dissertation topics last year. She took the students through the University’s Zero Tolerance policy, conducted research in-class using a quick SurveyMonkey questionnaire with results immediately available in the classroom. She also asked her students to come up with campaign ideas and proposals for increasing awareness, which was an identified problem. As an unintended consequence of this session, Line was able to take these suggestions to the Athena SWAN Team in her the school, which she leads. She has also shared the class findings and policy proposals with the Director of Student Services.

If you have any questions for Line about her experiences please feel free to contact her at or take a look at her twitter at @Line_Nyhagen. Alternatively, if you have any ideas of topics you would like to deliver on or hear about for future CAP Forums, please let us know by emailing Dr Glynis Perkin at or take a look at our Twitter at @LboroCAP.


Further Information:

The department’s newsfeed about the mosque visit:

A blog post related to Dr Line Nyhagen’s research:

Dr Line Nyhagen’s staff webpage:

Truly taking the MOOC (Part 3)

uofs-logoDelivered by the University of Saskatchewan (UofS), the Introduction to Learning Technologies course referred to in previous related posts this spring – i.e. Truly taking the MOOC and Truly taking the MOOC (Part 2) – has now concluded.

Indeed, those of us participating in this, as well as a number of comparable courses over the past year, tabled a paper at Quality Enhancement and Assurance Sub-Committee (QEASC) earlier this week – see QEASC14-P17 Taking a MOOC: reflections upon the University of Saskatchewan’s ‘Introduction to Learning Technologies’, Oxford Brookes University’s ‘Teaching Online Open Course’, and the Open University’s ‘Open Learning Design Studio’ for more details. Our hope in doing so is that the learning is not lost, particularly as Loughborough University builds upon its FutureLearn offering, i.e. Innovation and enterprise and Getting a grip on mathematical symbolism.


NewswordyWith today’s word being ‘cognizant‘, I thought that it was time to share the Newswordy web resource with T&L Blog, err, aficionados.

In defining their latest posting (i.e. ‘cognizant’) as an adjective meaning “having knowledge or being aware of”, this site – which I’ve only come across in recent weeks – goes on to offer a recent use of this term in the media. Thus, for this particular word, it reads: “Republicans, cognizant of Americans’ slow recovery from the 2007-2009 recession, also have focused on poverty-reduction but they favor a dramatically smaller government role. — Jeff Mason, Mark Felsenthal & David Lawder, Reuters“.

The Newswordy site says of itself: “Buzzwords are frequently used in news media. These are words that do not typically occur in everyday speech, but are common among newscasters, talking heads, and pundits on cable news. These ‘news words’ are accepted by audiences for their implied meaning. But often loaded words are misused or used out of context. The actual definitions can be different than what is implied. Newswordy is a growing collection of these words, updated every weekday. Along with each word is a definition, a quote with its use (or misuse) in the media, and a news and Twitter feed on the subject.”

Many of the reference points are American, so do be careful of spelling. Indeed, we wouldn’t want to create a furore! But, that being said, lovers of language and its contemporary use may want to subscribe … and, of course, during the course of the day deploy.

Truly taking the MOOC (Part 2)

uofs-logoIt’s Week 6 and we’re just under half-way through our Introduction to Learning Technologies course with the University of Saskatchewan (UofS). Further to the call in the previous Truly taking the MOOC post asking for other colleagues to get involved, there are three of us based here at Loughborough University who now meet regularly in order to support each other’s learning and to work collaboratively.

As part of our MOOC undertaking, we have to complete four assignments. The first of these – which is called a ‘Blog Assignment’ – has seen us posting weekly to our individual blogs from Week 3 onwards, while the second – which is called a ‘Collaborative Paper’ – has seen us working together on a joint paper which is due to be submitted later this week. Specifically created for the purposes of this MOOC, our blogs are available as follows:

Our imaginatively named Collaborative Paper (UofS MOOC) is also available online, that is even if it might benefit from a little more tweaking before this Friday’s deadline!

Building upon the Blog Assignment and Collaborative Paper, the third and fourth assignments for this UofS MOOC are a Media Project and Final Project respectively, so there should be at least two other outputs from this endeavour. In the weeks ahead, we’ll keep colleagues posted with our undoubted progress into this world of learning technologies, whilst also taking the opportunity to reflect upon our experiences!

Truly taking the MOOC

uofs-logoMoments after registering for the University of Saskatchewan’s new MOOC (Massive Open Online Course) – or, as they term it, a TOOC (Truly Open Online Course) – I have that sense of forboding that only a New Year’s resolution can bring. But, by now blogging about it, I may not be able to get out of it that easily, hence this post!

Entitled Introduction to Learning Technologies, and with a start date in the week beginning 20 January 2014, as well as a completion date of 15 April 2014, I already have serious trepidations about signing up to do this. Thus, is there anyone out there, particularly in the Loughborough Unviersity Learning and Teaching Community, who might want to join me on this journey? If so, drop me an email at and I won’t feel that I’m very much on my own! Further information on this MOOC – sorry, TOOC – is available at

cMOOCs and xMOOCs: hype or paradigm shift?

Coursera Screenshot

If you’ve glanced at the educational media in the last 6 months, you’ll certainly have seen numerous articles (often with quasi-hysterical headlines) covering the rise and rise of the MOOC, or Massive Open Online Course. I had intended to put this post on the E-learning Blog, but as MOOCs are supposed to be on the verge of revolutionising Higher Education, it seemed more appropriate to put it here. So, what’s all the fuss about?

The term MOOC actually covers two rather different types of online course, which are now categorised as cMOOCs and xMOOCs. There is some vagueness around what the ‘c’ and ‘x’ stand for, if anything at all, but essentially cMOOCs are characterised as collaborative, connected, and non- (or less) commercial. xMOOCs are the more commercially driven courses that, in pedagogic terms, are based on existing institutional models. The screenshot above is taken from the website of Coursera, one of the best known xMOOC providers. There is an excellent summary of the differences on James Michie’s blog. One of the early proponents of cMOOCs, Dave Cormier, outlines his thinking in the YouTube video below.

The hype around MOOCs in the media is based on some of the more outlandish predictions from those leading and marketing the xMOOCs (see this MIT Technology Review article for examples). Others point out that MOOCs don’t really seem to be so very different from the sort of thing that the OU (amongst other providers) has been doing for years. For some waspish insights into the business models that underpin the phenomenon, take a look through Mike Caulfield’s Hapgood blog.

To be continued…

Brockington Extension

Brockington refurbished foyer and breakout area

Over the summer, the Brockington Extension was refurbished resulting in some of the most imaginative teaching and informal learning spaces on campus. I took a look yesterday for the first time with a couple of Teaching Centre colleagues, with a view to using it for the forthcoming E-learning Showcase (about which more soon).

It was particularly interesting to see how students were using the informal learning spaces around the foyer, because there is a danger that high concepts do not reflect what students want or need. In this case, we were impressed how all the ‘pods’ (each featuring a large plasma screen) were being used by groups of students, with the whole area feeling relaxed yet productive. Colleagues in Teaching Support tell me they have had equally positive feedback from lecturers using the remodelled teaching rooms. U0.05 (shown on the right here) seats 60 in a horseshoe arrangement, which gives the feel of ‘theatre in the round’ and should contribute towards increased engagement with the group. It also features dual projection, which is very useful if you want to display something on the visualiser (aka ‘digital OHP’), for instance a hand-drawn diagram, while retaining your Powerpoint slides on the other screen. The room is bright, airy and spacious, and is exactly the sort of space that I for one would be happy to teach – or learn – in.