Some recent thoughts about interactive learning

Here is a selection of recent editorials I have written for Interactive Learning Environments – all available online in recent issues (Volume 26 to date).

Methodological choices for research into interactive learning in Issue 2

Stop daydreaming, pay attention in Issue 3

Reframing innovative teaching in Issue 4

Research limitations: the need for honesty and common sense in Issue 5

and in Issue 6 Student disengagement: is technology the problem or the solution?

If the links don’t work, go to the journal page for Interactive Learning Environments.

These are all editorials, my own thoughts and arguments based on my reading of a huge number of submitted papers and linked to the papers in each issue. This is one of the most focussed e-learning journals where papers must be related to interactive learning and must have a technology contribution. If you have something to say in this field, aim for a rigorous literature review and/or a longitudinal study or one which takes account of a broad range of learning situations or learners. We regularly reject single case studies of tutor’s successful personal innovations if they applied in just one case and do not add to the readers’ sense of what contributes to debate in this field.

Oh, and….try reading the author guidelines for the journal – I would love it if everyone did before submitting!!


Mostly online business learning?

We need some better words to describe the diversity of blended learning.

This brand new course BSc Professional Development in Business – which is the degree underpinning University of Brighton’s Chartered Manager Degree Apprenticeship (CMDA) – will be “mostly” online with just six days of face to face workshops. Intended for employed staff who wish to study for a business degree alongside their paid work, the course materials are primarily licensed from the Open University and are thus of excellent quality. The assessment is done by UoB academic staff and meets the needs of employers as well as students by offering a work-based element to most assessment.

Unlike our full time undergraduates, these students will have short breaks at Easter, Summer and Christmas, following a more work-oriented schedule.

But to compare this method of study with the typical blended uni course would be comparing apples and buckets – most “blended” uni courses favour face to face sessions with some online backup and further activities or reading, ie just an extensive use of a virtual learning environment.

MOOCs are spawning new acronyms all the time so what about MOBs and SOBs (mostly online blends and slightly online blends)??


Has sueg gone a bit quiet?

It doesn’t look as if I have been posting much this academic year – what’s that about? On the academic front, sueg continues to reflect on and develop ideas related to online learning and research methodology. Much behind the scenes work on supporting Tony Greenfield in the editing of the third edition of Research methods for Postgraduates, to be published by Wiley in September this year – some solo written and co-written chapters in there, plus a great deal of further learning about research methods from respected writers in the field. I am looking forward to being an invited panel member at the ENBIS conference in Sheffield in September talking about making statistics understandable for students and non-statistical specialists. Great chance to go back to Sheffield where in 2014 we celebrated a 40 year reunion with fellow graduates. I know, I’m far too young.

And there’s a new undergraduate blended learning course in business, which I have been developing along with colleagues at Brighton Business School – due for validation later this year. Exciting opportunity to put our experience of the theory and practice of blended learning into action.

And an invitation to deliver a keynote at the third European Conference on Social Media to be held in Caen this summer. Having helped to host the first of this conference series in Brighton, it will be great to meet friends and colleagues and share rapid advances in thinking around social media and learning. The recently published Leading Issues in Social Media Research, which I edited along with Asher Rospigliosi, identified some great content from that first conference.

Meanwhile, weekly editorial meetings and from time to time producing editorials for the journal Interactive Learning Environments keeps me in touch with a wide range of quasi-experimental and qualitative research studies and updated reviews of the literature in the field of technology-enhanced learning. We have just published a special issue on Mobile Learning which is attracting attention, and because we are producing bumper issues this year (total of 8), I am currently writing an editorial for the May issue of 18 new papers.

Earlier this academic year, we produced the latest publication from Brighton’s Learning and Teaching Conference 2014, in which I wrote about flipped learning from a practical and a theoretical perspective. And of course there is the series of weekly podcasts for business students during term-time which keeps me busy on top of teaching on a Monday.

So just a few things in relation to research passions to keep the aged brain ticking. Of course, just now there are a few other things to think about – external examining, teaching, supervising, grandchildren’s birthdays, Heydown lambing, leading and preaching at services in Old Heathfield and, just very occasionally, housework?


brief report of ICEL 2015

Set in the translucent seas between US and Cuba, Nassau gave us a conference setting which eased the mind and surrounded us with warmth and courtesy. The island seems focussed on its near future, with the hopes of the College of the Bahamas fixed on becoming a University shortly, and the hopes of the Government fixed on solving the delays in the latest tourist spot, Baha Mar, where four towering hotels built by Chinese workers with Chinese funding stand almost ready but stalled for the want of final agreed conditions and money.


So too in ICEL 2015, there were clearly established visions of distance learning enabled by learning technologies and pedagogies using all the current phrases – flipped classrooms, learning analytics, social media and audience response systems for interactive learning and gamification, yet the overriding sense was of teachers around the world still enthralled by gadgets, testing the latest projects from the big publishers desperate to infiltrate classrooms and colleagues who shared enthusiasms but often failed to bring other teachers into an awareness of online learning potential.


The keynote on day two, Dr Edward Bethel, spoke a good deal of common sense about rapid product development cycles which left us chasing our tails as implementation was just starting when the whole landscape of technology would shift again. As teachers we are still in the blind spot of consumerism rather than working alongside tech developers, so tossed much of our learning into the filing tray as new media and student practice trended ahead of us. He also underlined the digital divide as little to do with technology and a lot to do with the persistent and possibly growing social divide. We might well see a sea of smartphones in student hands but learning and business practices remain sticky, resistant to change. The smartphones, without an understanding of learning and the huge access to potential global knowledge they offer, were likely to be used primarily for selfies and fast chat with existing friends.


My paper was a critical review of the literature to date on flipped learning as this is a topic of the moment which is attracting such interest. I rather suspect that, despite its potential, in practice relatively few teachers will implement it fully. There are challenges, few of them technological, more of them to do with engagement and good teaching and learning design for the class sessions, which many will avoid. My conclusions suggest that there are particular circumstances, such as heavy cognitive load and considerable factual detail, where students can benefit from flipped classrooms, but this should be used with care. Inevitably the novelty of a flipped classroom approach will pall with students if over-used. Also the model works to some extent against constructivist and self-directed learning, by imposing considerable teacher control over input, rather than opening up search and evaluation opportunities offered by the Web.


What did I personally take away from this conference? Some good guidelines on learning game design, continued enthusiasm for the amalgamation of problem based learning with online tools and a framework for online course design from Carroll and Burke (2011) – all of these gave me food for thought as I continue to design and innovate where there is a serious need for improved engagement with learners. But let’s not throw the interactive lecture and class- based workshop away in the process, these continue to prove their worth with learners and good teachers.

DSC00288 the table at dinner, great colleagues, great food!

The other things I bring back are a wonderful warm sense of the healing power of sea, sand and sunshine, and a precious hour-long conversation with an inspiring Junior High School teacher from Nassau. She made sure I saw the real Bahamas, its closed society with continuing poverty, its paid for masters degrees rife across those with power and influence and its continuing lack of opportunity for women. She will be someone with whom I want to keep in touch.

Proceedings at


Learning from podcasting

Every Monday of term since October 2013, a second year business student and I have been releasing a podcast for business undergraduates in the Hastings campus of University of Brighton.

The idea is partly about students as producers and partners in learning and partly to offer topical news-related talks which link in some way with modules studied on the four business courses in this small campus. Trying to add some tacit component to explicit, formally taught business studies.

To date we have done recordings ourselves, as well as recording other students, academics and support staff from the university on topics ranging from Wikipedia and good writing practice to floods and business continuity.

The technology we use keeps recording quality fairly low but is informal and quite Lquick to use. The informality doesn’t seem to bother listeners, though we haven’t had a deal of feedback yet, just a couple of positive reactions.

The link to the growing podcast series is here.

UFHRD conference at Brighton

Developing people at and for work makes social and economic sense as well as introducing people, sometimes for the first time, to the joy of continuing openness to learning.

At the UFHRD conference – HRD in Turbulent Seas – Continued Global Economic Uncertainty: Challenges and Opportunities – to be held 4-7 June 2013, delegates will be exploring diverse issues around developing people.

Here are the different academic streams of papers – as seen below, five of them are offering the target of publication in a a related journal Special Issue:

  • Stream 1: Action Learning – research and practice – Special Issue Opportunity
  • Stream 2: Comparative and cross-cultural dimensions of HRD
  • Stream 3: Critical, theoretical and methodological issues in HRD
  • Stream 4: Diversity issues in HRD
  • Stream 5: Doctoral workshops
  • Stream 6: Employee Engagement & HRD – Special Issue
  • Stream 7: HRD Evaluation & Learning
  • Stream 8: HRD: identity, community, profession
  • Stream 9: HRD in BRICS+ and Multinational Corporations (MNCs) – Special Issue
  • Stream 10: Innovation, Sustainability & HRD – Special Issue
  • Stream 11: KM, learning organisations and organisational learning
  • Stream 12: Leadership and Management Development
  • Stream 13: Scholarly practitioner research
  • Stream 14: Technology Enhanced Learning at Work – Special Issue
  • Stream 15: Training and development, and retaining the talent of older workers
  • Stream 16: VET and Workplace Learning
  • Stream 17: Workplace Conflict

I’m involved in Stream 14 on Friday’s programme – looking at opportunities to use learning technologies for enhancing learning, and we have a call out for additional papers on this TEL at work theme for our BJET special issue – so if you have a paper/research study on that theme, even if you have not submitted to the conference, you can still upload submissions for the SI at the BJET website, noting that you would like to be included in this SI. Here is the Call for Papers of the SI.

Meanwhile the UFHRD itself has a very useful resource area on learning and teaching:

Link to great resources on HRD learning and teaching.

Counting down to ECEl 2011 at Brighton

The conference website is showing 2 days, 18 hours and 48 minutes to go before Mithras House in Brighton Business School welcomes 200 delegates to ECEL 2011.

With three great keynotes and over a hundred academic papers plus a doctoral symposium, we are going to be busy.
We have mini-tracks on accessibility awareness in e-learning management, personalized learning in online environments, open source and OER in e-learning, beyond virtual silos and institutional walls, e-submission and intelligent tutoring on e-learning platforms.
Lots of information on the conference website and photos during and after conference, but for now, to keep up with the conference follow us on Twitter #ECEL2011