Technology Enhanced Learning (TEL), our Focus On topic for 2019-20, has become particularly relevant as the sector manages its response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
QAA Scotland’s Focus On projects help the sector address recommendations and commendations from Enhancement-led Institutional Review (ELIR). The aim is to provide practical resources that can help you to make a real difference in a short space of time.
Focus On is part of our membership offer in Scotland. Access to the resources is available to all QAA members
We have launched an exciting Resource Hub full of practice and tips on using technology in learning and teaching. This includes resources from across the sector and around the world. Divided into key areas of interest, the Resource Hub provides timely support on the transition from physical to online learning, as well as guidance on other topical issues in technology enhanced learning.
Please let us know if you have anything that you think we should add.
In addition to these pages, we would encourage colleagues to bookmark and explore the following (QAA is not responsible for the content of external sites):
- Virtual Bridge Sessions | College Development Network and Jisc
College Development Network (CDN) in partnership with Jisc have teamed up to deliver the Virtual Bridge Sessions inviting speakers from the EdTech-enthused communities in Northern Scotland and Northern Ireland to share their stories and experiences of learning and teaching in a digital world.
- Resources for coronavirus crisis | Jisc
Jisc have compiled details of publishers and content providers who are widening access to their resources in various ways, with details of the content and measures to access them.
- Community Resources | Association for Learning Technology
The Association for Learning Technology (ALT) are curating resources and running open drop-in sessions every Thursday lunchtime.
- Free monthly webinars | Future Teacher Talks UK
Future Teacher Talks are free monthly webinars on various topics surrounding online learning.
- Tutoring matters webinars | UK Advising and Tutoring
UKAT’s free monthly webinars, Tutoring Matters, are designed to support all those engaged with personal tutoring and advising, whether that be as a practitioner, leader or in a related support role. At present, these webinars are emphasising issues surrounding online tutoring.
- Remote teaching resources for business continuity | Daniel Stanford, Center for Teaching and Learning, DePaul University
An extensive database of over 400 institutional webpages, mostly in the USA.
Frequently Asked Questions
Kellie Mote, Subject Specialist: Strategy (Accessibility), Jisc
Kellie discusses the session that Jisc delivered at the recent Focus On: Technology Enhance Learning online event on 1 April 2020.
Join the Jisc Accessibility Community
Q. Are there templates to support writing accurate accessibility statements?
A. The UK Government has produced a template for an accessibility statement. To find universities that have compliant statements, download the dataset of Accessibility statements across the UK from Lexdis, which is currently being updated.
Q. What scope do universities have to provide mandatory face-to-face training on accessibility discussions? There's lots to learn and people are often expected to bring themselves up-to-date in their spare time with little or no direction. Are there sector-wide initiatives to support this?
A. Yes, there are sector projects to support upskilling and the sharing of good practice. The best place to find out about projects, courses and events - many of which are free - are on the Accessibility Community mailing list and Microsoft Teams space.
Q. Do screen readers read PowerPoint notes?
A. Yes, screen readers can read PowerPoint notes.
Q. In terms of Virtual Learning Environments (VLEs): if we cannot do everything, what change would have the greatest positive impact for students and staff in moving towards being fully accessible?
A. There is no magic bullet, but rather a need for ongoing dialogue with users. VLEs need to be customised in the right ways. Institutions should ensure that students and staff with accessibility needs are consulted in the development of and amendments to VLEs – they are the experts of their own experiences!
Q. Given there will be lots to do, what do you think we should be prioritising?
A. Realistically, it is unlikely that everything will be completely accessible by September. It is important that accessibility statements are honest, and address areas that are not fully accessible. Institutions should be able to provide a reasoning for why any areas are not yet fully accessible, and outline the steps they will be taking to address these areas. The best advice is to prioritise things that will have the greatest impact. Ask yourself which of your online resources are used the most. In order to prioritise, it can be helpful to look at the variables involved: time, resource, finance.
Q. If Governance committees begin to follow accessibility rules, would that set the tone at strategy level?
A. Yes. There’s no doubt that everyone has a part to play. When leadership is seen to be practicing as well promoting good accessibility practice, everyone benefits. We have a short guide where my colleague, Julia Taylor highlights the benefit of taking A strategic approach to inclusive practice in education, and it specifically states inclusive practice should be done across the whole organisation. As Julia points out, everyone stands to benefit because accessible organisations are effective organisations.
Q. Can you recommend training for education developers or curriculum designers who are now supporting staff regarding accessibility in relation to content development?
A. Jisc will be running some training in the near future. People are strongly encouraged to join Jisc’s Accessibility Community.
Q. How do you ensure that student and staff accessibility needs are met?
A. It is important to ensure that students and staff are asked about this - some people may have needs in terms of online work that they would not have if working face-to-face. Jisc has some guides relating to accessibility that may be helpful.
Q. Some disciplines use complex diagrams, and it can be difficult you know how to make these accessible. The best options seem to be detailed notes to supplement alternative text, or record an audio explanation. Is one option better than the other? Are there other options?
A. It is important to think about what the diagram is for. What is it conveying? How will people be expected to engage with it? Can it be reproduced as text or audio? It is always best to consult with users to find out what works, and this may involve working one-on-one with users, perhaps co-creating content. A student with an acquired visually impairment may conceptualise things differently from a student who has had a visual impairment since birth. Poet’s Diagram Center training tool is a helpful resource.
Q. Does the new legislation apply to private providers?
A. The current (April 2020) understanding is that it does not, but this is complicated - for example, some private providers may be linked to public services. The new legislation is also linked to the Equality Act, which means it will have implications for all providers, regardless of whether they are public or private. There may be an update on the above coming soon, as it may be the case that providers of essential services to the public - a hot topic in the current context - will be in scope.
Q. Do you have examples of online teaching policies for pre-Higher Education programmes?
A. None specifically, but there are some more general resources that could be pulled together - UDL On Campus is one example. This is the kind of area where the Jisc Accessibility Community could offer support, crowdsourcing such resources.
Q. What is the experience of digital and online learning really like for students? The Covid-19 crisis has highlighted that some things perceived by students as being supportive, such as lecture recording, can be made widely available when they haven’t been previously. Do others have feedback on this?
A. Issues like this highlight the importance of reflecting carefully on course content. Lecture recording was already changing attitudes in this regard, and the Covid-19 crisis has accelerated that change. There has traditionally been an emphasis on synchronous delivery, even where it may not be the most appropriate approach. Students and staff are also learning about what is possible, with variations in connectivity being a potential constraint. We also need to think about pedagogies of kindness.
Q. We were due to start a newly validated programme in September. Given the need to create online learning content ready for the start of a new semester, would your advice be to deliver the existing programme, so that staff have the time and energy to learn how to be online teachers over the summer without the pressure of also familiarising themselves with the new programme content?
A. Think about delivery in the first instance. Go back to basics: think about the learning outcomes you want your students to achieve. The Carpe Diem approach to learning design is a helpful resource in considering your delivery portfolio. Share practice with colleagues, consult with students, and consider becoming an online student over the summer! Staff appear to have mixed feelings about their workload and work-life balance during this crisis. Some seem to be finding it less stressful than they might have imagined, but they may also miss face-to-face contact. The crisis has also highlighted some issues that need to be addressed, such as presenteeism and disparities between academic and professional services staff in the flexibility afforded to them.
Q. Are lecture recording and distance learning sometimes viewed as a threat to the role of the lecturer role?
A. Lecture recording technology has elicited some complicated feelings in the higher education sector, which are discussed in this collaborative presentation by Dr Jill Mackay (University of Edinburgh) and Dr Emily Nordmann (University of Glasgow). Lecturers should not feel threatened by new technologies, but do need to think carefully about what a lecture is and when it is appropriate. Teaching staff and learning technologists also need the support of senior managers in ensuring that the technology being procured does what is really needed. We should be telling vendors what we need - not the other way around.
Q. How can we best manage inequalities in digital access? Not everyone has access to the same hardware, software, or skills.
A. It is vital that we address our assumptions about access to technology and skills. We must also not assume that access in a general sense will equate to access relating to specific activities. Again, it’s helpful to go back to basic principles of teaching design, and think about the accessibility of the specific activity you are designing. Considering the diversity of ways that teaching can be delivered and engaged with is essential to supporting students who have varying level of access to technology and broadband, or who are living in geographically disparate areas.
Q. Do you know of any advice we could pass on to students about privacy in relation to video conferencing, especially in one-to-one meetings? We’re essentially entering their homes - should we advise them to blur their video backgrounds? Are there special considerations where the exchange may include sensitive personal data, such as counselling meetings?
A. Always check with your institution’s IT support team in relation to privacy and video conferencing. Institutionally provided systems are generally more secure than external ones, and more likely to have gone through necessary GDPR checks. Talk to your students about use of video - cameras don’t have to be on, audio works just as well and is often a better option in relation to bandwidth when accessing video conferencing systems off campus. If it is a personal matter such as counselling, then a phone call actually might be better, more secure and there is less risk involved in terms of any recording of the conversation. Students should always be informed as to whether an online meeting is being recorded. In a learning and teaching scenario, there should be an acceptable use policy that students sign up to that is GDPR compliant and that explains how recordings will be used (only for learning and teaching and not shared outside a module/course/institution) and gives a time limit on storage of any recordings - text, video, or both.
Q. How do you manage the issue of inconsistency of internet speeds?
A. Make more use of activities such as discussion boards, and activities that can be downloaded or otherwise undertaken offline. Where this is not possible, consider using audio only, not video.
Q. Some institutions use the term ‘supporting learning online’, rather than ‘teaching online’. Why?
A. It could be argued that the current focus should not be on ‘teaching online’ but, rather, on supporting students to engage with their learning online. Given the speed with which learning and teaching needed to be brought online, there needs to be understanding that the priority should not be offering a like-for-like online learning experience for students, as this is impossible, but offering a supportive, connected, and caring environment for student learning.
Q. Which platforms work best in international settings? For example, some platforms don’t appear to work fully in China.
A. This issue appears to be linked to internet service providers, rather than the platforms themselves. The Association for Learning Technology have expertise in which platforms work best and where. Jisc have also produced some guidance.
Q. Do you have any guidance on how to assess students if this situation lasts longer than expected?
A. The COVID-19 situation has pushed questions about alternative assessment to the fore: what constitutes appropriate assessment in the 21st century? Should we move more to open book assessments? We should view it as an opportunity to revisit the purpose, quantity and timing of assessment. The University of Edinburgh’s Teaching Matters blog has a spotlight series on remote teaching and alternative assessment.
Q. Does anyone have any guidance we could offer students to help them prepare for open book exams?
A. Some institutions are publishing their practice in this area. Heriot Watt's guidance on alternative assessments is available on their website and they have also published accompanying guidance for students.
Q. What can we, as educators, do to stay enthusiastic while working with digital distance learning tools?
A. Keep being the approachable and engaging educator that you already are! If anything, people seem almost too enthusiastic. We need to get the pace of adoption and upskilling right, so that people aren’t trying to run before they can walk, but also that we’re facilitating engaging learning.
We are grateful to the following people for helping us develop this resource:
- Kellie Mote, Subject Specialist: Strategy (Accessibility), Jisc
- Allen Crawford Thomas, Subject Specialist: Strategy (Lead/Digital Strategy), Jisc
- Jason Miles-Campbell, Head of Jisc Scotland and Jisc Northern Ireland
- Sheila MacNeill, independent consultant, open educator, writer and artist
- Rosemarie McIlwhan, Assistant Professor of Learning and Teaching, Heriot-Watt University
- The many colleagues who contributed during our online event on 1 April 2020, which we have captured in this Wakelet.